It would have been great if someone had engrained in me as a child to keep a diary during my life. No, I wouldn’t have to be a huge success to make it interesting. If nothing else, it might have been something I could leave to my kids in case at a certain point in time they wondered about my thoughts, where I lived, what was involved in my work, my interests, my successes and my failures. I already know it made a huge impact on them when I told them I had to go to summer school for Algebra after ninth grade. They immediately asked about other areas of my life where I didn’t measure up.
This column isn’t quite like that. I thought I would look back at just the year of 2016 and share some highlights with you as far as some of my articles are concerned. During 2016, I have reviewed eight books. Three of them were by Lisa Scottoline. I must admit I am partial to Lisa because I love mysteries and appreciate her writings. I would only have reviewed two of her books except I received a letter from Lisa’s Associate Director of Publicity for St. Martin’s Press in New York City who had read one of my reviews on Lisa and offered me an advanced copy of her new book at the time, “Damaged”. Also, I received a call from a leader of a local book club which reads Lisa’s books saying the club had been invited to Lisa’s book club weekend, which occurs in October, with over 1,200 guests invited (this year) for the last few years. She told me if the club was invited again this year, they would include me in the club. Since Lisa lives locally, I was excited to accept the invitation if it came. Unfortunately, this year this particular book club was not invited. Oh well, maybe another year Lisa.
I’m not scientific in selecting the books I choose to read. The best way so far that I’ve found is selecting one book from each decade from a list from the 1940’s to the 2,000’s as selected by a committee for Parade Magazine, from the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer. I still have a way to go using this procedure since I’ve done the 1940’s, 1950’s and the week of December12th I reported on my favorite book yet, the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, written in 1960. I would not like to report on a book if I had seen the movie first. Barb informed me we had the DVD for this book and we watched it on December 14th. I prefer color films but this one was in black and white, which was quite appropriate because it took place in a small, poor, southern town during the depression and because of its subject matter. There are not many men that measure up to the principled lawyer, Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck, who among other things defended a Negro wrongly accused of beating and raping a white woman.
Also, during the year, I wrote 49 columns under the heading of “Person to Person – Impact”. These are my favorite columns because there are no limits. They may be spiritual in nature, about people who have influenced me, experiential, or just plain silly. As “my business grew”, I hired my good old mentor from my Army days, Beetle Bailey, to review all incoming mail and pass on the most interesting pieces so I could tell you about them. Later, Miss Victoria Witherspoone (with an “e”) came on staff to help me with my intelligence gathering for articles by being a bug on the wall. Unfortunately, I got a bit carried away when I assigned both of them to figure out why I was being “reprimanded” by the Tri County Record because they were blaming me for their decrease in circulation. I was surprised after writing this tongue in cheek article that I received replies from three people telling me they were sorry I was having trouble with the paper management!
Another article told the story of Miss Betty Barton, whom I had for ninth grade biology. She was ancient, at least in her students’ eyes, because she had taught parents and in some cases grandparents of her students. She also had many peculiarities. The reason why this article was among my favorites is two ladies came to me and told me they had Miss Barton too (and these ladies were even older than I, graduating from high school in 1958 and 1959). One of them, whom I had not met before, graduated with my sister, Linda, and they were best of friends during high school, but had not seen or talked with one another in decades. This dear lady phoned my sister and had a good conversation with her shortly before Linda died on November 13th. I am really grateful for this lady’s phone call and her encouragement to Linda. Another encouraging thing happening as a result of these columns in the Tri County Record was a friend of mine contacted me and asked if I would give a short presentation at her book club about how I started writing for the paper under the headings of “Book Beat – Impact” and “Person to Person – Impact”. Unfortunately, I could not because I was out of town at the time of the book club meeting. Possibly another time?
I have said this previously, but I think it bears repeating. I am not a reporter. I am a story teller. My general guidelines are: to be truthful (except for tongue in cheek articles), to not disparage anyone and to not poke fun at anybody without permission. However, I don’t mind poking fun at myself.
I’m looking forward to 2017 with more book reviews and personal interest stories. Will my “staff” grow? What kind of subjects will I write about next? I will have to “dream” about that while either falling asleep at night or trying to awaken in the morning. In the meantime, God bless each one of you……Jeff
Jeff Hall, of Honey Brook, contributes columns to Berks-Mont Newspapers. Questions/commentsmay be directed to email@example.com