Thursday, October 8, 2009

Truth and Fiction

I had a book signing last night with my favorite journalism professor, Doug Underwood of the University of Washington. This guy helped me stay in newspapers -- and he's also part of the reason I got out to write longer pieces. He followed the same track in his career. His latest book is "Journalism and the Novel: Truth and Fiction, 1700-2000."

Unlike a lot of academic books, I found myself savoring this one with its stories about Steinbeck's journey to gather material for "The Grapes of Wrath" and how Edgar Allen Poe stumbled through life, pen in hand, paranoid, drunk, talented and tormented. There's also a side-by-side analysis of Hemingway's journalism and fiction, featuring the same bull-fighting scene. I wish I'd had this book in journalism school.

Until last night, I hadn't seen Doug in twenty years. When another old friend of ours showed up -- coming all the way from Portland -- we started up like it was yesterday, cracking wise at the get-go. Two new friends also came out, a mother and daughter who seem like old friends already, word-fiends all the way.

That part of the night felt like heaven: people long departed, immediately close again; people just met, kindred in spirit.

At least, I hope that's part of heaven.

The event's discussion about fiction and non-fiction went well, primarily because Doug's a master storyteller and teacher. I managed to place nouns and verbs into the same sentence and told tales about my newspaper days, back when newsrooms attracted rebels. When it came to questions, the floor went to the strange character in the front row. He wore yellow knee socks with grimy green wool trousers, torn tennis shoes and an Army-Navy jacket with bent bus schedules crammed into the chest pocket. His eyebrows looked like owls camping on his face and he wanted to talk about serial killers. That part wasn't like heaven. That was very much like earth. It's why I write crime fiction.

If you missed last night's event, don't worry. Doug and I are having another dynamic-duo appearance at the UW Bookstore on 45th this spring, with the release of "The Clouds Roll Away." We'll talk about everything from journalism and novels to "getting the book done." It'll be a night about words and writing and reading. You don't want to miss it.

If you're in the Seattle area, sign up for my newsletter on this website. I'll send an e-blast as the date approaches. I can't promise the guy with the eyebrows will show up, but you never know . . . .


  1. Sounds like a fabulous night! What a blessing to see an old friend and visit for awhile. I'm so glad the book signing went well. :-)

  2. Sounds like the ideal evening. The commute's a little tough from San Antonio, but, ya never know what'll be happening next spring. :-)

  3. HI SIBELLA!!! Believe it or not...I thought about you and the family all summer..knowing you were enjoying the beautiful summer in Issaquah!!! I've been praying for your book and wondering how you've been!?! WOW can't wait for "the clouds roll away!!!" Since we last chatted over email...we've moved from Antarctica...I mean Chicago...haha...and we're back in Texas now...Dallas area. LOVE IT! Soooo glad to get out before the winter! We'll be moving into our new home in a few life has been crazy! Soooooooooo glad you found my blog and we connected again...know that I'll be praying for you and your family each and every day...thinking fond memories of the beauty that surrounds you and the fresh air that is unforgetable. My heart will always be in Washington. :)
    Have a WONDERFULLY blessed Thanksgiving sister!!!
    In Him,