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Column

From news  to novels: e_SFlbThe making of a writer

  • Eric Poor of Rindge has written a memoir focusing on his years as a newspaper reporter.<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Eric Poor of Rindge has written a memoir focusing on his years as a newspaper reporter.
    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Eric Poor of Rindge has written a memoir focusing on his years as a newspaper reporter.<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

The Monadnock Ledger made me a writer. Prior to working for the newspaper I had only dreamed of writing. I simply never got around to actually doing it because I was too busy making a living and raising a family. In 1988 I made a commitment to write an outdoor column for the Ledger once every two weeks and I started learning the discipline it takes to write something on a regular basis. I used two fingers to pound out that prose on a two-dollar yard sale typewriter.

In 1991 I took the plunge and became a part-time reporter covering the events in my hometown Rindge. About a year later I ventured out of the shallow end of the pool and went full time, covering both Rindge and Jaffrey. During my time at the Ledger I covered other towns, as well, including Peterborough, Wilton and Lyndeborough — and wherever the editors chose to send me.

Reporting was what I did for 17 years. It was who I was — what I was — until I retired in the spring of 2008. I stopped reporting when I retired, but I didn’t stop writing. The Ledger had given me the tools I needed to be a writer — the attitude, knowledge, experience and discipline.

Nowadays when people ask me what kind of writer I am, I tell them: “I’ll write anything.” I like to play with poetry. I continue to write outdoor columns for a statewide publication called Hawkeye. I write press releases for a couple organizations. And I’m re-inventing myself as a novelist. I enjoy reading suspense novels and now I’m writing them.

I had a first draft of my first novel done by the time I retired. Many drafts later I declared it finished and after only 65 tries I found an agent to market it. He hasn’t sold it yet, but I’m undeterred. I’ve written another and I’m halfway through a third. I’m having fun doing this. After all those years of writing stuff 500 to 1,000 words in length, having 100,000 words to play with feels like having an unlimited budget.

One of the fictional characters I’ve created is a bartender. This should have been easy for me. I was a bartender myself for the best part of a decade. I learned bartending on the job at the former Curve Inn in Winchendon, Mass., where the owner proudly showed me the establishment’s bullet holes. I worked at several bars during the 1970s and early 80s and spent most of that time working at the former Red Rooster in Rindge.

So creating a bartender character should have been a piece of cake, right? Wrong. It’s 30 years after the fact and I’m learning how much I’ve forgotten about what went on back then (which should please some of my former customers). I really wish I had kept a journal back then.

So it occurred to me that the same thing might happen somewhere down the road if I were to create a newspaper reporter character. And I decided to write it all down while it was still fresh in my mind. I did and then I put it away. It spent some time gathering dust on a shelf.

Back when I worked at the Ledger one of the things I did was mentor students who had an interest in journalism by allowing them to job shadow me. I did this with middle school, high school, home school and college students. I generally did it on the days I made my rounds of the cop shops, doing police briefings of the previous week’s law enforcement activities. I figured this was a lot more entertaining than watching someone do something like phone interviews. I also arranged other job shadowing opportunities for high school students in a local career mentoring program. To its credit the Ledger, a true community newspaper, was very supportive of this activity.

Since retirement I’ve joined the Monadnock Writers’ Group, which has a mentoring program. If you’re a member of the group and have questions about journalism I’ll help out. Other members do likewise with other forms of writing. One of those participants is Rodger Martin, a poet, who also teaches a journalism class at Keene State College.

I took advantage of the program to have him look at the manuscript I had created. He liked it and thought he’d like his students to read it. He introduced me to Sid Hall, publisher of Hobblebush Books in Brookline. Hall also liked the manuscript and has published it as a book.

It’s a book I wish I’d had when I first started “Working at the Word Factory.”

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