ANNIVERSARY AND CELEBRATION #oilspill

DSC03075.JPGSometimes an anniversary involves a celebration of some sort. The events marked today are separate, yet inexplicably connected through virtue of their messages.

Six years ago today, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven men working on the rig and doing untold damage to the environment and wildlife as a result of an uncontrollable spew of petroleum into the fragile and precious habitat off the coast of Louisiana. And just two weeks prior to that, twenty-nine men lost their lives in the Massey coal mine in West Virginia when gases and coal dust ignited.

These two events have several things in common. The disasters could have been prevented if proper safety standards had been followed by the companies, and if the government who created those standards had actually enforced them. And in both cases, the workers toiling away at bringing fossil fuels to the surface for us and for the profits they garnered for Massey and BP.

As a writer, I felt drawn to both stories because of how they touched my life. But that book, Trails in the Sand, also addresses several personal issues about family and finding a way to heal the wounds that stretch back generations. All the while the oil spills and the West Virginia community deals with the shock of losing so many lives.

Both tragedies continue. BP is being held accountable but that doesn’t help the wildlife that swallowed all the oil. We may see the impacts of that for years to come. The CEO of Massey Energy, Don Blankenship, was recently sentenced to one year in prison for his blatant disregard of safety standards at the Upper Big Branch mine (New York Times editorial). Some are surprised he received any punishment at all. The families of those killed feel it was merely a slap on the wrist as they believe the blood of their loved ones stains his hands.

Now to the celebration part. It’s Earth Day, which began forty years ago as a way to celebrate the Earth and the start of the environmental movement in this country. Let’s all take a moment to think about how we can be a part of the solution by doing something positive for the environment this year.

To mark all of these books, Trails in the Sand, can be downloaded for free on Amazon. While a work of fiction, the novel follows the real-life tragedies in the Gulf of Mexico and West Virginia. Please grab your copy today and tomorrow (April 20 and 21), if you haven’t done so already.

 

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Click cover to download on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

Reality Creeps Into Fiction – #DeepwaterHorizon

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Oil spread to the beaches where sea turtle hatchlings would soon make their way into the oil-laden waters in 2010.

 

Five years ago today, the oil rig Deepwater Horizon caught on fire.  Even though the newscasters downplayed its significance that morning, I felt a black cloud deepen. I’d just moved to southwestern Pennsylvania where news of the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster a few hours away in West Virginia still dominated local news. Twenty-nine men died in that explosion on April 5.

We soon learned that BP’s project in the Gulf of Project gushed uncappable oil and eleven men lost their lives. As I’ve done for the past two decades, when something bothers me, I start to write. The result from my sorrow and unease with both disasters resulted in the novel, Trails in the Sand.  The novel serves as a reminder of two preventable disasters that occurred within two weeks of one another in 2010. Forty men died and countless wildlife and their habitats were injured or destroyed. Both events touched my life in some way and both made their way into the writing of Trails in the Sand.

When the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia exploded, twenty-nine miners, doing their job in the bowels of the earth, lost their lives. Subsequent reports showed the company ignored safety regulations, which played an important role in the explosion. At the time, I was in the process of moving from Florida to western Pennsylvania. The mine is located several hours from my new home, so the local media covered the disaster continually for the next few weeks. The national news also kept its eye turned toward a small town in West Virginia where families mourned their husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, and cousins. After April 20, the lens of the cameras shifted to the southwest.

The news began as a whimper before erupting into cries of outrage. An oil rig somewhere off the coast of Louisiana caught on fire on April 20, 2010. Soon the whole rig collapsed, and eleven men never made it out alive. Oil gushed from a well several miles below the Gulf’s surface.

As I made the transition to Pennsylvania, I still held my job in Florida, although I was in the process of leaving. I was a public relations director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. I made the trip back and forth sixteen times in 2010. I conducted meetings from a cell phone in airports, highway rest areas, and at a dining room table from our small temporary apartment in Pittsburgh.

Every time I started to give my two-week notice to my supervisors, something happened, and my wildlife biologist bosses pleaded with me to stay. During a crisis, the spokesperson for a company or agency suddenly becomes a very important part of the team. Scientists become speechless when looking in the face of a microphone.

Nothing much happened in those early days of the oil spill for the wildlife community, although as a communications specialist I prepared for worst-case scenarios, while hoping for the best. Partnerships between national and state agencies formed to manage information flowing to the media. By May, some of the sea turtle experts began worrying about the nesting turtles on Florida’s Panhandle beaches, right where the still gushing oil might land. In particular, the scientists worried that approximately 50,000 hatchlings might be walking into oil-infested waters if allowed to enter the Gulf of Mexico after hatching from the nests on the Gulf beaches.

seaturtle4An extraordinary and unprecedented plan became reality, and as the scientists wrote the protocols, the plan was “in direct response to an unprecedented human-caused disaster.”

When the nests neared the end the incubation period, plans were made to dig up the nests and transport the eggs across the state to Cape Canaveral, where they would be stored until the hatchlings emerged from the eggs. Then they would receive a royal walk to the sea away from the oil-drenched waters of the Gulf.

aptopix-gulf-oil-spill-1fee0422a0df6673The whole project reeked with the scent of drama, ripe for the media to descend on Florida for reports to a public hooked on the images of oiled wildlife. Since I was in transition in my job, they appointed me to handle all media requests that came to the national and state agencies regarding the plan. From my new office in Raccoon Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, I began coordinating media events and setting up interviews with the biologists.

As the project began in June 2010, I began writing Trails in the Sand. At first, I created the characters and their situations. Then slowly I began writing about the oil crisis and made the main character, Caroline, an environmental reporter who covered the sea turtle relocation project. Then suddenly I was writing about her husband, Simon, who mourned the loss of his cousin in the coal mine disaster in West Virginia. I didn’t make a conscious effort to tie together the environmental theme with the family saga unfolding, but before too long, I realized they all dealt with restoration and redemption of things destroyed. As a result, the oil spill and the sea turtles became a metaphor for the destruction caused by Caroline and her family.

I’m a firm believer in the subject choosing the author. When that happens, it’s best to let the muse lead me to the keyboard and let it the words find their way to the story. Trails in the Sand stands as my testament to the process.

3-D1Trails in the Sand synopsis

When environmental writer Caroline Carlisle sets off to report on endangered sea turtles during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the last thing she expects is to uncover secrets – secrets that threaten to destroy her family, unless she can heal the hurts from a lifetime of lies. To make matters worse, Caroline’s love for her late sister’s husband, Simon, creates an uproar in a southern family already set on a collision course with its past.

Using real-life events as the backdrop, Trails in the Sand explores the fight to restore balance and peace, in nature and in a family, as both spiral toward disaster. Through it all, the ancient sea turtle serves a reminder that life moves forward despite the best efforts to destroy it.

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Real Life Seeps into #Fiction

Click here to grab Kindle copy for .99 cents during April

Click here to grab Kindle copy for .99 cents during April

I’m often asked if real life seeps into my novels. As we head into the anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill on April 20, I’ve thought about how much of my life seeped into the writing of Trails in the Sand.

During April 2010, two significant manmade disasters occurred in the United States. Both of the tragedies became a part of my life for the remainder of the year and led me to question how we live our lives. It took me some months to make the connection between the two events, but when I did, they both found a home in Trails in the Sand, the novel I began writing in late 2010.

The first tragedy occurred on April 5, when a coal mine exploded in West Virginia, several hours away from my new home in western Pennsylvania. Twenty-nine miners, trapped inside the mine, died that day. The local Pittsburgh news carried very little else as hope ebbed and flowed on the first days after the explosion. But finally, on April 9, the governor of West Virginia made a tragic announcement. All twenty-nine miners were dead and had not made it to the safety room as hoped. My husband works with the mining industry in his job as an engineer with a water solutions company. He knows the coal mining industry very well so we kept our eyes and ears tuned to the news, first hopeful as everyone else, and then, more than curious about how and why the explosion occurred in the first place. The answers became clear in the months following the deaths. The company, Massey Energy, had cut corners in safety procedures. The resulting reports are gruesome and indictments are still coming down for the highest echelon in a company that for a long time flagrantly disregarded the safety standards for coal mining.

Macondo well gushes oil after Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns and falls

Macondo well gushes oil after Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns and falls

Two weeks later, all eyes turned to the southeast of West Virginia when another explosion caused an oil rig to catch on fire and fall to the ground, exposing a deep well in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill explosion killed eleven workers. For months, oil gushed out of the well unabated. Petroleum headed for the Gulf beaches. Within a few weeks, wildlife began appearing on the barrier islands covered and smothered in oil. The photos of birds immersed in a wet suit of petroleum played continuously on the news and horrified the world.

Even though I’d moved in Pittsburgh in April 2010, I was still working for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a public/media relations director until they found my replacement. The oil spill and the threat to Florida’s wildlife put my departure on hold for months. As I watched the news unfold about what caused the mine explosion from my home in Pittsburgh, I was fielding media calls, writing news releases, and pulling together facts sheets on oiled wildlife. By June, I was appointed to handle all the media during the sea turtle nest relocation project where 250 nests were dug up on the Panhandle beaches of Florida and eggs were transported to the Atlantic side of Florida for hatching and release. The project was unprecedented and received the attention of national and international media.

It didn’t take long for a culprit in the oil spill to have a name: BP. Once again, a large corporation sacrificed human and environmental safety in the pursuit of profit. My mind was churning and mulling over the connection between the two events.

In my spare time, I began writing a love story called In the Garden about two people reunited after a long separation. The subject began to have a life of its own. I wanted to write about my mother who died in 1998. Through various tidbits I’d gleaned over the years, I suspected that my mother gave birth when she was a teenager back in 1933 or ’34. I researched as best I could. I interviewed her only living sibling in 2011 and went through writings left by my mother and her father, my grandfather. My grandfather had been a miner in Cornwall until he came to the United States in 1900. When he arrived, he went to work in the copper mines in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan before giving his life to God and entering the ministry of the Methodist Church. Yes, my mother most likely became pregnant in a small Michigan town at the age of fifteen or sixteen, and she was the daughter of the Methodist minister. It scarred my mother for life, and in turn, it left its mark on her five children. I’ve spent my life recovering as I attempted to piece together my mother’s story.

female loggerhead

female loggerhead

With all of these events and life histories swirling in my head, I changed the course of my novel and renamed it Trails in the Sand. I wanted to write a book about how we destroy things and then attempt to recover and restore, if possible. It begins with a teenager on a beach watching a sea turtle lay a nest on St. George Island, Florida.

The chapters on the BP oil spill and the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster are from actual news clips and press releases. I used a description from my grandfather’s journal to describe the early years of the patriarch in the story. My mother’s story is weaved into the story as well. The main character, Caroline Carlisle is an environmental writer who sets out to write about the sea turtle project.

That’s how my novel came to life. I wrote Trails in the Sand to show it’s never too late to restore and recover from tragedy, and it’s never too late to find love.

How about you? Does real life seep into your fiction?

 

Writing from the Heart – For #.99 Cents

cropped-dsc024241.jpgSomeone once said, “Write what you know.” That doesn’t mean that an author has to experience everything that appears in a work of fiction.

To me it means to write what is in my heart.

I lived in Florida for thirty years, and it’s in my heart. Most of my novels are set in the Sunshine State because I love it and because I hope that in some way my books make others to stop and consider what can be done to end its headlong dive into the ocean of the developers’ pockets. Perhaps government officials will look at the cost of not enforcing regulations and start making the big boys pay by following safety rules put in place to avoid what happened in BP’s oil spill and the Massey mine explosion. Both events occurred in 2010 approximately three weeks apart. And both could have been prevented if the corporations involved had followed the regulations in place. And the forty men killed in those disasters would be alive today if the environmental agencies in charge of enforcing regulations had done their jobs. Forty men died in April 2010. That’s a loss we can calculate, and it’s horrible. However, we have no idea of the toll taken on our wildlife and their offspring.

And so I write what I know in my heart, and Trails in the Sand and Tortoise Stew show that love for the environment in ways I only know how to express through my words. My next novel, Native Lands, will even go further into an examination of what we do when we destroy even one part of nature.

To celebrate and remember Earth Day 2014, I’m offering both books for .99 cents on Kindle during the month of April. Click on the cover of each to be taken to the Amazon page. Both books are also available in paperback.

Click on photo

Click on cover

Trails in the Sand – .99 cents for the month of April on Kindle

***Love Triangles, Endangered Sea Turtles, and BP’s Oil Spill

***A Florida Novel by award-winning Florida author, P.C. Zick

When environmental writer Caroline Carlisle sets off to report on endangered sea turtles during the BP’s oil spill, the last thing she expects is to uncover secrets – secrets that threaten to destroy her family, unless she can heal the hurts from a lifetime of lies. To make matters worse, Caroline’s love for her late sister’s husband, Simon, creates an uproar in a southern family already set on a collision course with its past.

From Caroline’s sister: “My sister is nothing more than a common whore,” Amy said when Simon told her he was leaving her. “You just have to face it and get over some childhood notion about her being your soul mate.”

On BP’s oil spill: “Two weeks after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, dead sea turtles began washing up on the beaches near Pass Christian, Mississippi. Beach walkers discovered the stranded animals on sand darkened by the blood seeping from the turtles’ nostrils and underbelly.”

Using BP oil spill timeline and facts as the backdrop, Trails in the Sand explores the fight to restore balance and peace, in nature and in a family, as both spiral toward disaster.

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Click on cover

Tortoise Stew – .99 cents for the month of April on Kindle

Florida Fiction filled with intrigue, corruption, twisted love, and outrageous Florida  characters

A Florida Environmental Novel from Award-winning author, P.C. Zick

Small town politics at its best, worst, and wildest in this novel about the development of Florida at any cost.

“The bomb sat in a bag on Kelly Sands’ desk for an hour before she noticed it.” And so begins the raucous journey through small town Florida politics in Tortoise Stew.

Kelly Sands, a reporter, covers some of the more controversial and contentious issues in a small Florida town. Dead armadillos and gopher tortoise carcasses left as calling cards to those opposing the development of rural Florida show small town politics at its worst.

Commission meetings erupt into all-out warfare. With the murder of one commissioner and the suicide of his wife, Kelly begins an investigation that threatens to topple the carefully laid plans of the developers and politicians to bring a movie studio and landing strip within the city limits of the small town. When a semi-truck from Monster Mart runs over and kills a young girl, the environmentalists become even more vocal against the developers’ plans. All the while, Kelly struggles to overcome and escape her past, which catches up to her as she follows the antics of the politicians, developers, and environmentalists. With the help of her boss, Bart, and her best friend, Molly, she uncovers more than corruption in small town politics.

Using Real Life in Fiction

By P.C. Zick @PCZick

Originally published April 23, 2013 on Words Unlimited, Back Story

During April 2010, two significant man made disasters occurred in the United States. Both of the tragedies became a part of my life for the remainder of the year and led me to question how we live our lives. It took me some months to make the connection between the two events, but when I did, they both found a home in Trails in the Sand, the novel I began writing in late 2010.

Florida's sea turtles saved from oil spill in Trails in the Sand

Florida’s sea turtles saved from oil spill in Trails in the Sand

The first tragedy occurred on April 5, when a coal mine exploded in West Virginia, several hours away from my new home in western Pennsylvania. Twenty-nine miners, trapped inside the mine, died that day. The local Pittsburgh news carried very little else as hope ebbed and flowed on the first days after the explosion. But finally, on April 9, the governor of West Virginia made a tragic announcement. All twenty-nine miners were dead and had not made it to the safety room as hoped. My husband works with the mining industry in his job as an engineer with a water solutions company. He knows the coal mining industry very well so we kept our eyes and ears tuned to the news, first hopeful as everyone else, and then, more than curious about how and why the explosion occurred in the first place. The answers became clear in the months following the deaths. The company, Massey Energy, had cut corners in safety procedures. The resulting reports are gruesome and indictments are still coming down for the highest echelon in a company that for a long time flagrantly disregarded the safety standards for coal mining.

 

Two weeks later, all eyes turned to the southeast of West Virginia when another explosion caused an oil rig to catch on fire and fall to the ground, exposing a deep well in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill explosion killed eleven workers. For months, oil gushed out of the well unabated. Petroleum headed for the Gulf beaches. Within a few weeks, wildlife began appearing on the barrier islands covered and smothered in oil. The photos of birds immersed in a wet suit of petroleum played continuously on the news and horrified the world.

Even though I’d moved in Pittsburgh in April 2010, I was still working for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a public/media relations director until they found my replacement. The oil spill and the threat to Florida’s wildlife put my departure on hold for months. As I watched the news unfold about what caused the mine explosion from my home in Pittsburgh, I was fielding media calls, writing news releases, and pulling together facts sheets on oiled wildlife. By June, I was appointed to handle all the media during the sea turtle nest relocation project where 250 nests were dug up on the Panhandle beaches of Florida and eggs were transported to the Atlantic side of Florida for hatching and release. The project was unprecedented and received the attention of national and international media.

It didn’t take long for a culprit in the oil spill to have a name: BP. Once again, a large corporation sacrificed human and environmental safety in the pursuit of profit. My mind was churning and mulling over the connection between the two events.

In my spare time, I began writing a love story called In the Garden about two people reunited after a long separation. The subject began to have a life of its own. I wanted to write about my mother who died in 1998. Through various tidbits I’d gleaned over the years, I suspected that my mother gave birth when she was a teenager back in 1933 or ’34. I researched as best I could. I interviewed her only living sibling in 2011 and went through writings left by my mother and her father, my grandfather. My grandfather had been a miner in Cornwall until he came to the United States in 1900. When he arrived, he went to work in the copper mines in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan before giving his life to God and entering the ministry of the Methodist Church. Yes, my mother most likely became pregnant in a small Michigan town at the age of fifteen or sixteen, and she was the daughter of the Methodist minister. It scarred my mother for life, and in turn, it left its mark on her five children. I’ve spent my life recovering as I attempted to piece together my mother’s story.

With all of these events and life histories swirling in my head, I changed the course of my novel and renamed it Trails in the Sand. I wanted to write a book about how we destroy things and then attempt to recover and restore, if possible. It begins with a teenager on a beach watching a sea turtle lay a nest on St. George Island, Florida.

The chapters on the BP oil spill and the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster are from actual news clips and press releases. I used a description from my grandfather’s journal to describe the early years of the patriarch in the story. My mother’s story is weaved into the story as well. The main character, Caroline Carlisle is an environmental writer who sets out to write about the sea turtle project.

That’s how my novel came to life. I wrote Trails in the Sand to show it’s never too late to restore and recover from tragedy, and it’s never too late to find love.

Trails in the Sand is available on Amazon Kindle and in paperback. It’s also available on Nook at Barnes and Noble.

sea turtle (loggerhead) hatchling (Photo by P. C. Zick, 2006)

sea turtle (loggerhead) hatchling (Photo by P. C. Zick, 2006)

 

Weaving Real Events into Fiction

Macondo well gushes oil after Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns and falls

Macondo well gushes oil after Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns and falls

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

When I began the early scribbles for what eventually became Trails in the Sand, I was writing about current events. BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill still led the headlines as oil gushed unabated into the Gulf of Mexico. Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine explosion made headlines in few months after the explosion when investigators finally entered the mind shaft after the fumes subsided. The CEOs of both BP and Massey continued in their positions, but only for a few months longer.

I used both events in my novel as the main characters are connected to both disasters.

By the time, I published Trails in the Sand in January 2013, the horror of both events faded from the public consciousness as the media turned to more pressing issues, such as the demise of yet another pop idol with little talent, except a beautiful face and body.

BP plays its commercials extolling the beauty of the Gulf beaches it nearly destroyed forever because of their negligence in following safety procedures. Massey Energy changed names, and the face of the company, Don Blankenship, faded into obscurity except for his website supporting certain political entities.

So my novel went from the category of current events to historical fiction in less than three years.

Even though I used real events in the novel, my characters are figments of my imagination. I used actual news accounts and placed my fictional characters into the scenes. It’s reminiscent of the movie Forest Gump, except our dear Forest goes to the top and interacts with very real presidents during very real events. My characters do more mundane things.

Some authors use actual events in history with real people. They invent conversations, emotions, and action within the context of the history. Paula McLain did that very well in The Paris Wife, a novel about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley. Using Hemingway’s Moveable Feast, McLain creates conversations and events between the characters. She read Hadley’s letters to Ernest to find the woman’s voice. “I invented what I couldn’t know,” McLain said.

Another novel that skillfully invents the lives of real characters and real historical events is Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of Butterflies. It takes place in the Dominican Republic during the rule of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. Four sisters – the Butterflies – are the main characters of the novel and the real Butterflies during that violent time. On November 25, 1960, three of the sisters are found dead next to their jeep. The other sister, Dede, remained at home. Alverez tells the story from the viewpoint of all four sisters capturing their voice and personality through very adept storytelling.

Even though authors may choose different ways to include historical events within the confines of a story, some things remain constant.

  • Research – If you decide to include real historical events or real places within your fiction, accuracy is crucial. In Trails in the Sand, I used real news releases, news articles and reports, and books on the events. For the mine explosion, I added a fictional miner, but I kept to the real details of lawsuits and monetary settlements offered by the company to the victims’ families based on news reports. McLean used the Hemingways’ real accounts of their lives together in Paris. Her descriptions of Paris in the 1920s is historically correct.
  • Always Avoid Libeling a Real Person – There’s a standard for libel, which includes making defamatory statements of fact that are false. If you decide to use real people in your fiction, use common sense and only write what you can prove. For instance, if I quoted a real person in Trails in the Sand, the quote came from an interview using that person’s real words. My best advice to you, if writing about a real person and making them a character in a novel, is not to defame them and stick to actual historical accounts. In addition, make sure you publish a disclaimer at the front of your book. Here’s a sample used by many authors and publishers:

This is a work of fiction. The characters, events, and dialogues portrayed in this book are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.

  • Keep track of current events – As authors, we never know when a story in the newspaper might end up in a book. If something tickles your fancy, bookmark it, save a copy of the article, and/or scribble some notes about it. Soon it will be history and might be stranger and wilder than anything you could ever imagine. Something I read years ago has stuck with me. A man in Florida, shot his pit bull when the dog showed signs of homosexuality. His neighbors reported the gunshots, and the man claimed he couldn’t stand to have a “gay dog” on his property. I’ve weaved that into my next novel – I just knew it would come in handy one day.

Have you ever used real events in a novel? Do you like reading novels that do?

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All Writing is Opinion – So No Need to Shout

Hello – I’m changing my routine a bit with Writing Whims. On Mondays, I’ll post my tips and thoughts about writing. On Wednesdays, I’ll be featuring other writers – please see the note below about Author Wednesday. On Fridays, I’ll post book reviews. Sometimes I might be reviewing a book by Wednesday’s author, or I might review an old favorite, a new release, or the most recent book I’ve read. I’m hoping this will prod me into moving through my pile of hard copy and Kindle books.

Brother and Sister Having an Argument clipart

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

When I began working as a reporter, my whole concept of writing changed. Much to my chagrin, I realized what I taught as a high school English teacher mattered little to writing in the real world.

So I adjusted and formed my own style as I wrote articles and columns and dabbled in the world of fiction. My first newspaper editor always stressed objectivity in reporting as most real newspaper people do. Soon enough, I discovered objectivity is the ideal, but it’s not the reality.

I learned about journalism in the field under deadline. I covered the politics for a small yet growing town in north Florida. When Walmart set its eyes on a town willing to give incentives for building a super center within the city limits, the locals took sides. My job was to report on both sides objectively, even though I had a definite opinion about the monster stepping on the midgets. I wouldn’t have been able to write the preceding sentence in an article about the project, but I sure could decide how I presented my piece, even though it appeared to be objective.

For instance, if someone on the Walmart side yelled, “You’re a good for nothing tree hugger,” I could lead with that statement and continue with the rest of the meeting. But what if that comment was preceded by, “You’re a cheater and a liar out to destroy this town by bringing in Walmart,” and as the reporter, I chose not to include that in my article? As the reporter, I’ve suddenly become subjective, but no one is the wiser except the folks at the meeting. It happens all the time.

As writers, we have tremendous power in the simple presentation of words, sentences, and paragraphs. We choose the examples we use in both fiction and nonfiction. We design characters to suit our needs and opinion. We design scenes where our point is abundantly clear by what good or bad things might happen to the protagonist or antagonist.

We don’t need to shout. We only need to show. In my novel Trails in the Sand, I present the real life drama of BP’s oil spill and the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster. Even though I have a definite opinion about who’s responsible for the deaths of men and wildlife in both tragedies, I tried not to shout it from the rooftops. But I chose what news articles I quoted, and I presented the material from the perspective of an environmentalist through the main character, Caroline. I tried not to shout, but I certainly wasn’t writing an objective novel.

This week on my first Author Wednesday, author Rachelle Ayala writes a guest post about her newest novel Hidden Under Her Heart, which presents one view of abortion. I’ll review the book on Book Review Friday.

Ms. Ayala shows her opinion quite clearly in her novel, but she’s not shouting. And because she didn’t shout, I listened.

I also learned another lesson in those early years of my writing career. When folks on each side of the Walmart issue presented their position, they were usually shouting. No one heard a word because the other side was shouting just as loud. Even though I had my own opinion on the project, I soon discovered I didn’t want to be associated in any way with either side.

I stopped listening.

Do you believe there is such a thing as objective journalism or is it just a good example of an oxymoron?

NOTE: I’m looking for writers – published or not; Indie or not – to feature on Wednesdays in Writing Whims. Author Wednesday will include guest posts and interviews with authors in most genres and at most stages of their career. Please leave me a comment or email me at pczick@verizon.net, if you’d like to schedule a feature. I’m booked through the end of May, but I’m looking for authors for June, July, and August.