Has a book ever inspired you to become a writer?
When I graduated from high school, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. Louisiana Tech offered me scholarship so off I went as a home ec major. I didn’t really want to teach but thought I could be a home economist with a utility company. Donna Culotta, my high school English teacher, told me I was choosing the wrong career path, that I should be a writer.
In my second quarter at Tech, I walked into the home ec lab and found a dead rat in front of the stove. Rodents are my true phobia – I don’t even like Mickey Mouse – and when the instructor told me there would always be rats and mice in home ec labs, that was my sign to change majors!
I also changed schools after that quarter. My dad had been in Vietnam and when asked for his dream assignment to follow, he listed Florida in all three slots and for the first - and only - time, the powers that be paid attention and he was assigned to the Naval Station in Key West. I hated being so far away from my family, hated even more that they were in warm, sunny Florida when I was iced in, so leaving Louisiana Tech was an easy decision. I loved living in Key West, was active in the school politics at Florida Keys Community College and if our Chicago Cubs' farm team was playing at home, evenings were spent at the ballpark.
While I was in Key West, Watergate broke with the help of two reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Their book, “All the Presidents’ Men”, was released in 1974 and I knew that I wanted to be in the newspaper business.
When I transferred back to Tech, it was as a journalism major. My goal had changed just a little and rather than investigative reporter, I wanted to be a sportswriter, specifically a baseball writer. This was not an accepted role for women. There was only one female in sports – Phyllis George – and she was given fluff assignments. The same thing held true for me. I was the first female on the Tech Talk’s sports staff and my beat included the parachute team and martial arts program. I didn’t want to be a writer enough to scratch and claw my way through.
When I was growing up, you could count on people like Walter Cronkite or Chet Huntley or David Brinkley, then in later years, Dan Rather, to tell you the news without embellishment. I remember when I saw that change: I was living in DFW and Clarice Tinsley stood up to deliver the news on KDFW rather than sitting behind her desk. She was wearing a yellow dress and rather than her usual serious, somber tone there was noticeable inflection and emotion in her voice. Now society confuses opinion shows with newscasts.
Most print reporters are after the facts, but unfortunately, newspapers are a dying breed. I read four every day thinking if I check multiple sources (relying heavily on the AP) I can find the truth.
Here I am, some 45 years later, trying this writing thing again. I still have my copy of “All the Presidents’ Men” and watch the movie every now and then just to swoon over the perfectly cast Dustin Hoffman and <sigh> Robert Redford. As for journalism: in the immortal words of Ben Bradlee, "You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up... 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We're under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing's riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I'm going to get mad. Goodnight."