Feature writing my favourite
Ever since learning to read and write, I knew that I wanted to live in the world of words. As a child, I wrote stories on my mother’s typewriter, kept a journal, made mini-newspapers, and loved to visit the library.
As a teen, I wrote newsletter blurbs and edited my high school yearbooks. At university, I co-edited the tri-weekly student newspaper and worked as a summer reporter at The Edmonton Journal and The Vancouver Sun.
Today, I have published in more than 50 books, magazines and newspapers, including The Globe and Mail, The Georgia Straight, Sierra and BC Business magazine. Yet, as a reporter, I soon realized that “hard” news or daily reporting of events didn’t excite my heart. I preferred feature writing, which offered more depth and creative options as a writer.
Early in my career, at age 21, one small reporting assignment shaped my future work decisions. While at The Edmonton Journal, I was supposed to do a story about a baseball coach who became paralyzed after a member of his peewee baseball team had thrown a bat in anger. The bat had bounced off the ground and hit the coach’s spine, leaving him permanently injured.
When I phoned the coach for an interview, he selflessly pleaded with me not to pursue the story, insisting that the boy and his family had already suffered enough. His grace and consideration in crisis touched me.
I discussed the situation with my editor, who relented; he said just to include a short paragraph on the incident as a matter of record. I did so and in the process, learned that my priorities would never make me a hard-nosed reporter: I would always place the human factor above getting a story at any cost.
When interviewing people as a professional writer today, I have found myself more intrigued by their personal tales and inner struggles than just recording an external event.
I like to extend compassion and a soulful connection to the people I write about, rather than only find a story angle and maintain so-called objective, professional distance.