Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Real Comeback Kid

Mark Curtis begins his book, The Age of Obama: A Reporter’s Journey with Clinton, McCain and Obama in The Making of the President 2008

with the story of how, when he was 5 ½ years old, on election day 1964, he stayed home from school in his small Wisconsin town and listened to the election coverage with his mother, a news junkie who faithfully watched Walter Cronkite while she ironed.

Mark was fascinated as the results came in from each state, although he had never travelled outside of Wisconsin. His mother bought him an atlas so he could see where Florida, New York and California were.

Is it any wonder that Mark became a political junkie like his mom?

Mark’s love of the process, personalities and drama of politics is evident in his book, which spans the 2008 election from the Iowa Caucuses through the primaries to the eventual, historic election of Barack Obama.

Mark was a guest on our March show

to talk about his book, a candid chronicle of his journey to over 30 states as a freelance reporter/political analyst covering the election.

The book is warm, real and insightful.

But what I enjoyed most was Mark’s relentless enthusiasm and optimism—and his inspiring story as the ultimate “Comeback Kid.”

Mark spent over two decades as a traditional journalist, including almost ten years as the co-anchor of the top-rated “KTVU Morning News.”

At the age of 48, he was let go by a manager who told him:

“Mark, if I could use a sports analogy, you’re Kurt Warner. You took us to the championship, but now you are on the second team!” He really said this! It was as if to say: “Mark, you’re a ‘has been,’ and your best days are behind you.”

A little scenario that might seem all too familiar right about now, especially to Baby Boomers who have worked hard their whole lives, only to learn that they are easily expendable.

So what did Mark do?

Maybe he cried silently into his pillow or drank too much cheap white wine or made Voodoo dolls of the TV executives.

(That’s what I’d do!)

In the short run, we don’t know, because Mark doesn’t dwell on this.

What matters is what he did in the long run.

He reinvented himself:

"Rather than walk away in defeat, I had been encouraged by my friends to transition to the “new media and to embrace it."

When you read the book or meet Mark, there is (astonishingly) not a hint of anger, victimization or defeat.

Only profound passion for what he is doing now and a work ethic and daily work schedule that blows you away.

I don’t know much about sports, but I do know that Kurt Warner came back, leading the Cardinals in the Super Bowl.

As Mark wrote on his blog on Super Bowl Sunday:

"Cheers to all my fellow “has beens” who’ve fought back after being counted out!"

Cheers, indeed!

Thanks, Mark, for being an example and an inspiration!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Yay! I’m a Villain! Another Writer We Love

Me, Camille, and Jim

Who doesn’t fantasize about being a Villain? Think of the most compelling characters of fiction (or non-fiction)—Erica Kane in All My Children, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, Tony Soprano, Ted Bundy, Bernie Madoff, Tamra from The Real Housewives of OC!

Disturbing as it is, these people are WAY more fascinating than the Average Joe or Josephine who file their income tax returns on time, never have more than two glasses of wine at a party and always remember to floss.

In my real life, I try hard to resist my evil impulses. I strive to be conscientious, thoughtful, kind—a good wife, mother, daughter and friend. My guilty shame is that I love bottled water, but I repent by religiously recycling.

But, in my imagination…Oh, the things I can think!

When mystery writer Camille Minichino (aka Margaret Grace) asked if she could hang out with us, watch us tape the show, and pepper us with questions about the inner workings of a TV station to research her new mystery, Malice in Miniature, I quickly agreed.

Camille is the most delightful of authors—on time, well-prepared, eloquent, exceptionally pleasant.

She brings fudge and candy for the crew! In over seven years of doing the show, Camille is the only one who has ever brought sweets—and she’s been on three times! (Hint, Hint, for all you aspiring authors!)

When she told me that she was basing her next book in a TV studio, I was more than happy to help her with the research.

Camille/Margaret loves using her fiction to learn about new things. When I read her latest book I was happily surprised to see how many details she got just right and how her powers of observation added to the realism of her writing.

But most of all, being the closet narcissist that I am, I loved how she took a few details of me and turned them into a not-so-likable character.

Nan Browne is blond and I am not, but I noticed that we both wore the same “flowered skirt with a handkerchief hemline” (I totally have one of those!) and I liked that Nan was “well put together,” which is something that is not so true when I am being the carpooling mother character in my real life.

A little bummer about Nan being “fortyish”—next time I’d like my imaginary villainess self to be more early thirties, with perhaps a sultry Angelina Jolie vibe….

And one more teensy request.


Margaret/Camille, next time, can I be the murderer?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Writers We Love--Sandra Kay on Blogging

To learn everything you've ever wanted to know, but were afraid (or too shy or too technically-unsavvy) to ask, be sure to go to Sandra's blogging workshop at the Pleasanton Poetry and Prose Festival!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Writers We Love

The first in a on ongoing series of writers—local, national and international--who we love…

Sandra Kay, Writeous Mom and The Tri-Valley Gypsy Poet

How do we love Sandra, let us count the ways….

1) She is a prolific blog writer of epic proportions—funny, genuine, irreverent, heart-rending…She’s a definite bookmark on our homepage!

2) Let me say again—genuine! I love Sandra because she says what she thinks and she thinks what she says. She is unafraid to peel off the layers of social convention and reveal her naked self—even if that self is feeling a little bloated after indulging in cheesecake for breakfast!

3) Despite her debilitating fear of public speaking, she has courageously appeared on In a Word multiple times, and she has always been a thoughtful, eloquent, extremely well-prepared guest.

4) Nine years ago, she was my writing teacher, when, after a lifetime away from writing, I decided to dip my toe in the turbulent waters of writing again. She taught me to “show, not tell!” Her warmth and encouragement were just the gentle push I needed to get me swimming again.

5) She is a survivor of the fiercest, most splendid kind. She is an inspiration in so many ways.

6) She always makes me laugh. Her take on Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken and her version (which is a part of a larger poem, in her wonderful, handcrafted book of poems, Beautiful Fish):

two roads diverged in a wood, and i ---

i took the one well paved. -now am a cliche'

should have went the other way

who put that flippin' fork in the road anyway?!?

Be sure to sign up for Sandra's blogging workshop at the Pleasanton Poetry and Prose Festival!