Sunday, February 11, 2007

Writing every day, even a little, gets you there

Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - One of the hardest parts of the writing business can be maintaining forward momentum.

For me, that means researching a little and writing a little every day, inching towards completion, whatever the assignment.

For one of my contracts, I have to read the wires daily to pull possible stories and if I am smart about it, I start working on research right then, too.

OK, I'm not that smart most of the time.

But because it is incremental, I know that every day I need to do some, as I did as soon as I got the assignment from Reuters to cover Rudy Giuliani's speech. Rather than wait until the night before he spoke to read up (and cram my brain), I scanned the news sites for the three days beforehand.

It paid off in the speech, when I already had the background on Rudy firmly in the back of my mind when he spouted about 9-11 and events since. Also, the anecdotes he used were well rehearsed, based on my readings.

For my magazine writing students, I suspect it's hard to think of the stories they have just started researching as anything but just another assignment for another upper division class.

They'll learn quickly (I hope) that the real measure isn't me, it will be the editors that see their work and judge it.

If they work a little each day - even if it's only to do an hour of reading - the deadline (in barely 10 days) won't seem nearly so frightening.

Guiliani nearly declares at the GOP convention

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - It was all-out GOP politics Saturday as the faithful got ready to listen to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani speak at a luncheon, part of the state Republican Convention here this weekend.

Rudy Guiliani at California GOP convention
Rudy speaks the the GOP luncheon

The luncheon hall was packed with conventioneers and press, among whom I sat as a reporter for Reuters, hoping that Rudy would declare his formal entry into the race for president in 2008.

He didn't - though he came very close - and every time he asked the crowd if they would vote for him, they cheered wildly, much louder than they cheered the night before when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke at a dinner gathering of about 700 in the same Hyatt Regency Hotel ballroom in downtown Sacramento.

According to the reporters I talked with at the press gathering, Arnold got a very tepid response from the GOP, many of whom consider him a traitor for agreeing to compromise with Democrats on many issues. That compromising is what got him re-elected in November.

Rudy's speech said nothing about compromise and in his speech, he invoked Sept. 11 directly six times, Ronald Reagan at least as many, and he said that he supports the war in Iraq - and George Bush - completely.

If he runs - or should I say continues to run - his campaign is likely going to be based on keeping the nation safe from terrorists, with precious little offered on what the nation needs domestically. "The war on terrorism is our greatest concern," he said.

The ever-skeptical press pushed him as hard as they could in a press conference, during which he said that he had really already almost declared his candidacy.

But a reporter from the New York Daily News told me that there is no way that Rudy would ever formally declare his run for the presidency in California. He has to do that in New York so that his likely Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, gets the full brunt of the announcement. New York has a lot of electoral votes, too.

The food that was served at this GOP luncheon was an almost unrecognizable melange of chicken and pasta. The lunch served in the press lounge was probably a lot tastier - and it was free, too.

And my story for Reuters? Well, because Rudy (called "America's Mayor" by Bill Simon in the introduction) didn't actually declare his candidacy for president of the U.S. - or say anything directly bad about any of his potential Democratic opponents - my Los Angeles Reuters' editor said I didn't need to file a regular story, just a long package of quotes and observations that may eventually show up in future Reuters' stories when America's Mayor does make things more formal.

Story or not, Reuters will still cut me check for a pretty interesting day.

Rudy with supporters at Calif. GOP convention
Rudy with supporters at the GOP convention