There is time and place. And then there is motion. And how one moves through particular moments and settings depicts untold stories, stories that move fluidly or gradually, depending on who’s doing the telling. In Taos writer Barnaby Hazen's case, the settings are 7-Eleven stores, and the characters are varied, each telling a different tale, marked by experience and emotion. Hazen crafted this book of short stories (titled Seven Eleven Ceremony and Other Short Stories) of his own volition in the hopes of churning out multiple vignettes that share one common setting to ignite a variety of ideas and concepts.
According to Hazen's Kickstarter page (which closes out this Sunday on Jan. 19) to fund his project, Hazen states that “The stories named after 7/11 were based on the number of philosophical conversations I kept having with a certain friend of mine while walking or driving to and from one franchise or another.” It's Hazen's hope that not only will the book be published, but that with adequate funding, it could turn into an ongoing literary journal where people can submit stories of their own experiences at 7-Eleven stores, or any other convenience store. “It’s definitely an offshoot of a bigger idea. I’m hoping that if the book is successful, I can become an editor of other people’s stories,” Hazen said. He’s also made a “flash fiction” piece from the book available, via his Facebook page, and hopes that people will not only respond/donate to this innovative project, but that they'll also contribute their own stories if the project proves prosperous. Scope the page, and give what you can before Sunday.
Last June, a book sat in front of me that, honestly, I was not inclined to read. Consuming a great deal of nonfiction in my college courses, I browsed the web for favorite bloggers or settled in with F. Scott Fitzgerald during the lazy summer months. But my summer job entailed urging incoming UNM freshmen to read this book, and a pesky voice in my head persuaded me to practice what I preached.
David Shipler’s The Working Poor: Invisible in America is a well-rounded, nonpartisan account of the poverty plight in the US; while that summary did not necessarily entice me, the personal anecdotes did. I was intrigued by Claudio, an illegal immigrant living fearfully between farmhand jobs, and I was a little heartbroken by Peaches, a homeless, working woman who had been abused countless times. After doing some research on the author—a Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist fascinated with society—I was admittedly a little star-struck as I sat across from him a couple weeks ago.
“My mother raised me to be comfortable in an embassy or in a hut,” said Shipler, who is now 70 years old, with kind eyes and his trademark white beard. “My mother brought me up to believe you can learn something from everyone. And I believe that’s true.”
Shipler, who visited UNM campus as part of the Lobo Reading Experience event from Oct. 15 to 16, shared stories about his beginnings in journalistic digging, his thoughts on the value of the human story and a peek into his most recent work in progress.
Shipler was raised in Chatham, N.J. and received a bachelor’s in sociology from Dartmouth. Then a policy-minded student, he was also actively involved in his college radio station, had interviewed Martin Luther King, Jr. and attended the March on Washington before graduating in 1964. Late in his college career, a creative writing professor counseled him to consider journalism after graduation. Shipler needed to serve two years with the Navy, but he took the advisement to heart.
“The idea kind of kept percolating and midway through my Navy time, I went around and asked to see some editors to find out how you got into journalism,” Shipler said. “I started literally as a copy boy. … running around the floor, getting coffee for editors and stuff like that.”
Beginning as a news clerk at the New York Times, Shipler eventually reported for the city desk on New York housing before moving on to the Washington Bureau and work as a foreign correspondent in Russia and the Middle East. In these nations, he wrote his first books, among which was “Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in the Promised Land.” A still-thrilled Shipler recalled learning that this investigation won a 1987 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction.
“I can tell you that I had no inkling that this was a possibility,” the storyteller said.
He recollected the moment he learned he had won, having called in to the Times from an airport to check on a story he had written. “Joe [Lelyveld, the foreign news editor], got on the phone and he said, ‘You won a Pulitzer for your book.’ I said ‘What? My gosh.’ I never expected that to happen and it was just a tremendous honor.”
The practiced newsman said his interest fundamentally stems from a fascination and appreciation for people.
“There are a lot of interesting human stories here, and it’s not just about abstractions, it’s about real people who want to say certain things and are either stymied or are able to, depending on how they navigate their way through the labyrinth of inhibitions and impediments,” Shipler said. “I [find these] stories compelling and moving and powerful.”
Having explored the territories of American poverty, unrest abroad and civil liberties, Shipler continues to examine the human faces of political issues within his new book on free speech. Owing to his own tried-and-true First Amendment rights, he said he is curious primarily about cultural restraints on free speech.
“I’m hoping to do this book about individual people who run up against these limits and are confronted by others who want to close them down,” Shipler said. The author wants to explore diverse free speech issues, such as censorship, electronic speech and political speech.
A journalist who has confronted race issues, poverty and war, Shipler emphasized that people of any career—in any domain—can make a difference for good.
“Human dignity is a universal need,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you are on the socioeconomic spectrum. You crave it and you deserve it, and that is a lesson that [everyone] can learn. You don’t have to be working for an anti-poverty organization to have an impact and make change.”
Keep your eyes peeled for Shipler’s new book or check out his blog, The Shipler Report, for more of the author’s work.
Here at the Weekly Alibi, the Oxford comma is sometimes the subject of hot, nerdy debate. This illustration makes a compelling point about the controversial punctuation. The Oxford comma: Are you for it, against it ... or indifferent?
I had an editor once who wore sweat pants to the newsroom.
I did not approve. While I’ve never been a GQ type of guy, preferring cheap khakis and work shirts to slacks and dress shirts, I always tried to dress well enough to go to court.
When my editor would come in clutching a bag of McDonalds and a lip-balancing a cigarette, decked out in blue or black sweat pants, I couldn’t help but scoff (and cringe at the knowledge that a soul-crushing, spirit-trashing staff meeting was soon to steal an hour of my day.) Sure, we are print people, but that’s no reason to dress like like one had awakened under a freeway overpass.
I’m not too big to admit that I was wrong. I wrote an article this morning dressed in a t-shirt and boxer shorts. It was heaven. I felt like I had found Jesus after a life in mortgage banking. I have seen the light and been reborn. Hallelujah. Can I get an amen?
I am trying to freelance full time and I think I have just found the first perk among the many terrifying unknowns: no pants. Pants are overrated and a large portion of my operating budget. They have to go.
Lord, I don’t ask you for much, and I’m calling in a favor. Bless me with enough freelance work to continue to revel in the unbearable lightness of chortes. Amen.