Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cream of hardscrabble granola

As mentioned in the previous post, the judges viewed three submissions from each writer for the Opinion Writing category, before awarding prizes. Back in January when I submitted these, I felt that of the 25 of my letters published in Idaho newspapers last year, four stood out. This was not a bad problem to have and after some reflection, I pared off the one about Idaho’s Abe Lincoln statue restoration and relocation.

I had a similar quandary three years ago, when then, I found myself with four articles worthy of submission. The three I finally decided on were Testing Spirits around Hot Springs, Secret Lives of Meter Readers and Positively Googled Idaho. The one I cut that year was Support your Local Cab Driver.

The next year, 2006, I quit the Express midyear, but still had four creditable columns. The problem was that nobody bothered to mention that I was eligible to submit these as a freelancer. The four I would have chosen from were: Shedding Maple Syrup Tears, Golf course offers links to nature, The Midday Owl who withdrew from the bank and my last Express column, Ein Hemingway Bummel durch den Adams Gulch Too bad, because I felt that these columns were at least as good as the award-winning ones from 2005.

I did learn a year later at the Journal that as a freelancer, I could submit my Serenely Dipped Sockdolagers to the Idaho Press club, excellence in journalism judges. Dreaming of Fabled Homeland Security was a no-brainer, as I had been refining it since 2003 and felt confident in what it said from the get-go. I wanted to submit One Giant leap for Humankind, or starving punch drunk on the moon, but the editor had attached the full URL’s to my hyperlinks within the print version, which made the article difficult to read. I later learned that when you e-mail a hyperlink through Lee Enterprises corporate offices, they expand all hyperlinks in that manner. Therefore, instead of shooting for the moon, I submitted Selkie Swayed to Speak Hidden Truths. The third submission that year was my last WR Journal column Priceless Smiles over Diamonds. (Unfortunately, the WR Journal archives are dead, so I’ve linked the columns from my blog)

After Priceless Smiles ran in the Journal’s pre-Labor Day paper, I helped Daniella move to Port Townsend. While gone, fires raged in the valley, prompting evacuations and the cancellation of our big Wagon Days event. Meanwhile, Pedro the editor e-mailed me that this would be my last column and that they would be now be sticking with hard news. Which was completely opposite of what they told me they year before when Trey said they were looking for an alternative columnist.

Interestingly, the press broke down the next week and the circulation manager offered me double time to serve as carrier for one of the routes. 150 bucks for three hours work. I didn’t bite, because it was the principle of the thing. Much like what happened with the Express when I left there.

Now, that I’ve won a second excellence in journalism award, I wonder if the Journal would qualify that as “hard news” if they were still in business. Similarly, will the Express make any mention of this, since I worked there for nearly 13 years?


Besides the friends, I mentioned earlier, I would also like to thank the many friends and family who have offered solid support for my writing passion these recent years: Mom and Dad, Kim, Shelly, Daniella, Pam Parker, Melissa B., Dr. Jennifer Davidson at CSI, Betty Bell, Kathy C. Leslie Thompson, Deb Gelet, Jan Daniel's from EcoExpressions, M.E. Sibbach, O.O., Professor Tom Trusky, Dr. James W. Loewen, Tiss, 3V3T5 and family, Colt, Brad Nottingham, Tony Chace, Noah and Josh Bowen, Jim Dee, Willy Cook, James Mitchell, William Pattnosh, Tony Evans for leading our Idaho Conversation League writing club. My Internet pen pal and mentor of sorts, Rob MacGregor and the handful of friends who read the Greenvanholzer blog on a regular basis – you know who you are.

Footnote: After thinking about it for a few days, I remember that the third column I submitted as a freelancer for the Journal last year was actually Future Friedman: A Place for Healing War Wounds, which means the one I cut was actually Mermaid Swayed to Speak Hidden Truths.


JBanholzer said...

Also would like to thank the newspaper editors from the Magic Valley Times-News, The Idaho Statesman, The Wood River Journal, Idaho Mountain Express and Challis Messenger, along with the continued support from my work colleagues at The Open Room and Lone Star.

twoskies said...

Congrats Jim for winning 2008 Idaho Press Club award. See you in Boise

Brad Nottingham said...

You know, Jim, I just cannot believe it all. You were a guy who took on the challenge of actually getting the Idaho Mountain Express copies out on the streets, in snow, in rain, during zero-degree moonlit nights, but you took this critical "end-stage" job seriously, and did "your level best" as my Dad would say. Not everybody appreciated that.

Then, I remember your active mind always thinking of ways to improve distribution, head-off problems, steer clear of poor positioning of racks, soothe business owner concerns, detect and avoid vandalism. Not everybody appreciated that.

But you didn't stop. Your mind was always churning. You gave Express reporters heads-up on story ideas, often providing them with a contact number, and even possibly an angle. Some did appreciate that. But, not everybody.

You began your newspaper career focused on the end-product. Why not start at the beginning? You did. You began writing creatively, raising a few eyebrows, and finessing your highly creative style. Like the British show on PBS called "Connections," one idea led to another idea, and stories and discussions beget further discussions and tangents. Columns were generated. Some editors did not appreciate what was to become a distinctive literary style, mellowing and becoming quite good.

You wrote for inquisitive, literate readers who thought about the complexities of their world far beyond their paychecks, tomorrow's expected temperature, and their weekend grocery lists. Many silent readers did appreciate your words, and are glad you've made the effort. It's now moved over to become a presence online. Persistence pays off, and you polished your presentation with steps in higher education. Still, just a few years previous, an editor or two still didn't see much value.

I recollect a special show I saw on the life of Pete Seeger, now recognized as a national treasure. He is a man who actually, in different eras, sometimes "did not appear" to love our country, when everything he wrote, and every song he tried to get the audience absorbed in, was totally an expression of love for his country. Pete came up with a less controversial idea to try to clean up the Hudson River. He gathered a couple partners and built a sailboat that could carry people, an audience, and a group of musicians from landing spot to landing spot to sing about possibly changing the old Hudson River ethic that had been setting up like plaster: that it was lost, and was just to endure as "grandfathered-in" chemical dumping conduit.

So he built a sailboat.... "sailing up... sailing...down" ... remember that infectious song? He thought that people would gather and sing, then look at the river debris near the boat, and find some little way, or apply some little pressure point to stop a pollution source. Even Arlo Guthrie initially thought that this was tremendously naive. It worked ! The cumulative effort paid off, and was a crowning moment for the "think globally, act locally" concept. Pete Seeger just soldiered on, chipping away at the big rock of resistance, just as depicted in Eastwood's rogue Idaho Western of 1985. Not everybody appreciates that kind of persistence.

That is how have seen my friend Jim Banholzer evolve with the written word. It's a passion, now right Jim ? I write this little tribute from the proud perspective of being your friend from the newspaper world. Sure, we carried bundles across snow-covered berms with our hands stinging sometimes from the cold, as we un-twined the stacks. We grew tired slinging out papers down driveways in the wee hours before sunrise. We worked hard on the product "output." Jim, I had no idea you'd be contributing so well to the "input" side of things in just a few more years. Rewards are hard-fought scrabble sometimes, right? Atta go ! ----Brad.