When Fresno Bee Executive Editor Jim Boren invited me to join his ranks as a Sunday columnist exactly one year ago, I said yes without the slightest hesitation — my writing passion eager, ready and willing.
I never dreamed the assignment would be easy, but I had been writing for Valley Voices for over a decade and knew the drill of composing 750 words for public consumption. Yes, I could do this.
Then came weeks with brain and cursor at extreme odds regarding content and subject matter. Life constantly intruded. The balance of discipline to the craft and really living in order to find moments worth writing about challenged me at every turn, creating panic and 11th-hour havoc.
Barricaded in my studio, I wrote “stream of consciousness” style till something clicked, often times meeting deadlines by the seat of my pants — guided by hope, paranoia and fear of disappointing readers.
Year one flew by. While at times terrifying, going public with my musings cemented my love for this place called home. People do care. They take time to respond. I have hundreds of e-mails to prove it — each one saved and archived. Hand-written notes stashed for safekeeping.
This slew of new friends keeps me honest, letting me know when I’ve struck a chord with my prose.
At the end of the day, it turns out we are more alike than different, more compassionate than cold, more loving than we take credit for.
The year has been a steep learning curve. On occasion, I’ve tried quoting scholars or writing about something outside or beyond my personal experience. It doesn’t work for me. I’m not a reporter. That’s better left to the Pablo Lopezes in the newsroom.
Although I fantasize writing about large, worldly issues, I’m easily seduced by matters of the heart, the human condition — anything with a heartbeat. If you read my column, you know that.
Thankfully, I feel many of you perched on my shoulders, and honestly, there is nothing better than running into you at the grocery store or out in the community.
Often you recognize the big hair, which leads to conversation, a handshake, maybe even a warm embrace. If I’m lucky, you’ll recall a favorite column that touched your soul, spoke to your insides.
So what’s the plan for year two? I’m yearning to dig deeper, plow through my own stuff, risk getting my hands dirty. I’m hoping readers will stay with me if columns appear darker from time to time.
I’ve started writing a few thousand words each day — knowing full well that anything past a thousand generally steers me toward quicksand and human land mines.
I confess I love waking up in the middle of the night with ideas born out of the blue — even when they hamper my sleep. I know that by daybreak some of them will evaporate, vanish or materialize into new, first sentences. And that’s how it all begins.
I think San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen started the tradition, which was followed by The Bee’s own beloved columnist, Eli Setencich, rolling out names of people deserving a little ink. In my case, these are the ones who have cheered me on, liked me on Facebook, followed my tweets, and roasted/toasted me until I cried.
Here’s my list for year one, the grand prize going to Steve Howell, postcard-collector extraordinaire, who, all the way from Morro Bay, writes to offer feedback, friendship, kudos and keepsake postcards embellished with the most amazing stamps I’ve ever seen. My personal favorite is covered with postage bearing the faces of William Saroyan, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck.
Thank you Bob Boro, Ron Bock, Therese Wiebe, Michael MacChesney, Pat Healy, Reyna Reyes, Hina Fatima, Al Smith, Patti McPike, Deby Simpson, George Shaterian, Bob Oliver, Mark Ford, Susan Boyd, Sandy Doyle, Beverlee Bargamian, Russell Ryan, Francine Kanne, Rich and Dwayne Berrett, Danielle Shapazian, Lynne Ashbeck, Michael Lundy, Ardemis Menendian, Laurie Johnson, Bernice Hostetter, Karen Eropkin, Holly Bundy, Kathy Nagel, Janice Stevens, Verna Ward, Heidi Sagaser, Marcia Falk, Rich Ellis, Phil Fullerton, Jerry Smith, Julian Thornton, Larry Balakian, Gary Walker, Gayle Surabian, Shirley Folland, Henry Friedman, Karen Boos, Jo Ellen Misakian, Denise O’Neill, Susan Points, Gina Taro, Peggy Stahl Abels, Linda Quinn, Phyllis Brotherton, Clarice Krikorian, Kristine Sandberg Salomonson, Karin Larka, Shirley Bruegman, Karen Olson, Lonna Walker, Jackie Ryle, Lee Leone, Beth Lederach, Jill Pate, Angel Abajian, Char Nunn, Anne Egli, Sylvia Moe, Linda Estep, Mary Castro, Yvonne Hanson, S.L. Kahl, Brooke Ashjian, Gayle Nix, Florence Parnagian, Michael Repucci, Gary Giese, Mary Eurgubian, George Vozikis.
And my forever fan – my mom: Virginia Derian.