Sunday, June 27, 2010

In Honor of Ink-Stained Wretches

My first paying job in journalism was writing features for the Richmond News Leader, may it rest in peace.  
That job was beyond fantastic, for two reasons: First, upon arriving in the Capital of the Confederacy from Alaska, I was told: "Write whatever strikes you as interesting. People, places, events. Tell us what you see, and why we should care."

Those extremely generous words came from Bob Walsh, my editor, and the late, great Nelson Hyde, the editor who initially hired me, a man capable of seeing -- somehow -- something worthwhile in a little greenhorn punk fresh out of journalism school.
But the second reason I loved that job?  The staff. The News Leader's reporters, editors and administrative assistants were seriously dedicated to putting out the best newspaper, every single day (except Sunday. We didn't have a Sunday edition).  They loved good writing. They edited with an adamant focus on serving readers. Plus, they were some of the nicest people I've ever met.
They were also characters. Reality TV has nothing on that newsroom.
One of those News Leader characters still kicking is Jay Stafford. He's now books editor with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. When I first met Jay, he sported a blonde mustache as macho as Magnum PI's, yet often offered impromptu tutorials about the finer details of the British monarchy. Jay could also be relied upon to upbraid any Yankee rudeness with the choicest terms available to the literary man.
Yesterday, his review of "The Clouds Roll Away" ran in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It's an honor to be reviewed by somebody of his calibre. I'm so grateful. On a personal note, the review brought back many hilarious memories of the News Leader smoking room, where Jay often pontificated between puffs about the latest etiquette infraction committed by Sarah Ferguson. We now know Jay's take on the social-climbing Duchess was prescient. What I would give to hear Jay Stafford vent about Fergie selling access to Prince Andrew for money.
Here's to you, Jay Stafford. One of a kind.

Thank you.


  1. What a fab review, Sibella! Kudos to a "maturing novelist" with "superior story telling skills." Most definately. Richmond came alive for me--love place as character--through Raleigh's eyes.