Sunday, March 21, 2010


For some reason, despite the volumes of TV, radio, newspaper, and corporate writing I've done over the years, I've never blogged. What's up with that, huh? You'd think blogging would come natural to someone who pounds the keyboard so much.

Oh, I've given it a try here and there, but blogging never really seemed to catch my attention back in my pre-Mississippi days (that would be anything pre-2008). And even though I was huge Stephen King fan -- I even owned a leather-bound, slip-cased edition of Insomnia, for Pete's sake -- I never jumped on the blogging bandwagon.

I don't know. Maybe I was just too busy cranking out copy to write for the pure enjoyment of it...

Anyway, for some reason (could it be the legacies of Grisham, Faulkner, Harris, Williams, and Welty tickling my imagination?), I feel more inspired to share my thoughts now that I've moved below the Mason-Dixon line. After all, these authors -- some of the greatest writers whoever dipped their quills -- live, or have lived, here in the Hospitality State.

It is, though, the life and success of the first author on that list -- John Grisham -- that inspires me most. His literary prowess and publishing success is the stuff of legends; his legal thrillers have sold more than 250 million copies -- and the films based on those thrillers have grossed nearly $646 million. That Miss'sippi boy done good!
(Dear reader, it would be appropriate here to let you know that I actually do have roots in Mississippi.  I might've been born in Los Angeles, land of freeways, beaches, and all things trendy, but my "kin" are from the Mississippi Delta. And you don't get much more "southuhn" than that. I've been visiting here my whole life. I MUST have at least 10% country blood in me!)
Beginning with A Time to Kill (1988), he wrote about injustices wherever he found them, even in his own field. An attorney by education (Ole Miss, a breathtakingly beautiful school I have photographed) and original intent, he's generally frustrated by the self-absorbed nature of lawyers (as am I), hence the not-so-subtext of his books The Firm and The Rainmaker, among others. In doing so, he became one of only a few authors ever to sell at least two million copies on his first printing (his '92 novel-turned-Hollywood-blockbuster The Pelican Brief sold more than 11 million copies in the U.S,. alone). And perhaps most important of all (to me, at least) he's written at least one book a year, a feat that, if nothing else, demonstrates the power of "dripping" content. In other words, write at least one good page a day and you'll have 365 of 'em by year's end (even though Grisham, by his own admission, takes only six months to pen his average work).

And finally, Grisham is faithful to the craft of writing -- and loyal to those in the south who pursue literary goals. He has endowed a number of writing scholarships at Ole Miss and was the founding publisher of Oxford American, whose tagline is "The Southern Magazine of Good Writing." The Los Angeles Times describes it as " of the brightest periodicals to appear on the American literary scene. A fabulous…magazine of passionate, quirky writing about the South." Now I ask you, "Who wouldn't be enamored with the efforts of a guy like John Grisham?"

Beyond books and movies, Grisham, like me, loves baseball. He played it in high school (about the same time as me -- in the late 70s) and tried out for Delta State. I say "tried out" because he didn't actually make the team. Apparently (unlike me) he was better at writing than hitting curve balls. And therein, I think, lies the pivotal dividing moment in our erstwhile parallel careers.

I say that tongue-in-cheek, of course. I did play college ball in the south (Southern California, that is) --  after being drafted by the Reds in '74. I loved the sport then, and I still do. But athleticism doesn't last nearly as long as literary skill, so John definitely got the better end of that deal. He went on to a great writing career and continues to support (and write about) baseball. He even wrote an original screenplay for and produced the film Mickey (2004), a film about Little League. And I wouldn't be surprised if he had secret hopes of owning a team (John, are you listening.....?).

One of Grisham's favorite sayings is, "You live your life today, not tomorrow, and certainly not yesterday." I happen to agree, if not (always) in practice, at least by wishful thinking. And so, it's in that spirit that I wishfully re-engage in the art, craft, joy and occasional torment of writing. Besides, if blogs help presidents get elected, companies reach out to their customers (or the other way around), and all of us to capture the hearts and minds of each other, then maybe giving it another (more serious) try is a pretty good idea after all.

In the days and months ahead, look for all kinds of Tupelonian random-ness, so named because I live in the biggest little town in southern America, Tupelo, Mississippi. It's the birthplace of Elvis, but becoming notable for other things these days, including racial reconciliation, regional economic development, the building of an ultra-modern Toyota plant (that's a whole other story), and some of the best high school baseball in the country (no way I could leave that out of the list).

It's a slower pace here in Tupelo. No more big-city drive-by handshakes from me (also a whole other story). This time, I'm slowing down enough to write in pencil...and walk to the sharpener.

Maybe that way, I'll catch up with my buddy John.