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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Writing that makes a difference


My first exposure to William Zinsser was in 1990 when I picked up "On Writing Well" in an effort to improve my journalism. What I discovered was a lifelong mentor to accompany me on my writing journey.

Fourteen years later in 2004, I had the great pleasure of meeting him in person and introducing him to an audience of journalists gathered at a conference in New York City. (Pictured above) I've had a passion for his writing and his wisdom on writing for 20 years.

Imagine my delight to learn somewhat belatedly (it was published in 2009) that he has written a book called "Writing Places: The Life Journey of a Writer and Teacher." I love the sound of it, I love the idea of it and I can't wait to hear what he has to say about his own journey. I'll be at the bookstore tomorrow to make my purchase, adding this latest to my well-worn Zinsser collection.



His books are filled with my notations: underlined passages, notes in the margins, post-it notes marking entire pages. They are lovingly dog-eared and never far from reach as a source of information or inspiration.

With the patience of a grandfather and the enthusiasm of a lifelong learner, he has embraced hundreds, probably thousands of writers, answering the phone in his Manhattan office on Lexington Avenue and making a difference in the lives of writers. It's a role he embraces.
“Many younger writers have taken me as a mentor. They just look me up in the Manhattan telephone book. ‘I know how busy you are,’ they say, assuming that I spend every minute writing at my computer. I tell them I have many ways of being busy, and this is one of the ways I like best. I particularly like to be busy with people who want their writing to make a difference. And by now I have a small shelf of their books.”
The biggest surprise is to see that this delightfully old-fashioned man, with his trademark white fedora and sensible New Balance running shoes, has embraced modernity in the form of a website.

6 comments:

Arnold said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Alena

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Amy Green said...

Hi Wendy,

I'm so happy Creative Ink is back. Have you ever called Zinsser? I've considered it but always felt too shy.

Amy

John Ettorre said...

Do it, Amy. You won't regret it. I first did so in 1988 after reading his book On Writing Well, and have been in touch with him ever since. He's right there in the Manhattan directory. You can get his office number by dialing director assistance in the 212 area code.

Amy Green said...

I've always felt like, what would I say?

Wendy A. Hoke said...

Hi is a wonderfully generous person and delights in talking to writers. He may even remember you, Amy. As I recall, you really touched him with your comments at the SPJ event.

John Ettorre said...

Amy, how about: "Hi, my name is Amy, I've loved your books, and just wanted to tell you that directly." That's about all you'd need to launch into a nice 5- or 10-minute chat. He'd mostly take it from there, as he has with hundreds of similar calls he's received (and welcomed) from readers just like you.