Q&A with Stacy Juba discussion

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Writing What You Know > 25 Year Ago Today Columns/Obits

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message 1: by Stacy (new)

Stacy Juba | 20 comments Mod
Next weekend, I will be participating on a Sisters in Crime library panel, discussing the topic "Using What You Know (Or Don't Know) To Write a Mystery." One anecdote I plan to include is how I once had the job that my protagonist Kris holds - obit writer and editorial assistant for a daily newspaper.

One of my responsibilities was searching through the microfilm to compile items for the daily "25 and 50 Years Ago Today" column. I was young at the time, fresh out of college, and found it fascinating reading about times before I was born. Different presidents. Different movies and TV shows. But, the microfilm machine gave me eyestrain as it was a really tedious task. Sometimes it took awhile to find items that were newsworthy, yet not overly negative. It does put things in perspective - i.e. tempers often get heated at Town Meetings. Strange to think that something so animated at the time may someday be the subject of one sentence in a 50 Years Ago Today column.

One day, after I was promoted to reporter, I started getting the idea - what if an editorial assistant stumbles across a murder while compiling her 25 Years Ago Today column? What if she becomes obsessed with solving it? Hence, that was the start of my book.

If you'd like to read more about my job writing the 25 Years Ago Today column, check out this blog I did last summer for Jungle Red Writers, "The Treasure in Grunt Work." http://bit.ly/9VcXjz

Does anyone here read 25 Years Ago Today and 50 Years Ago Today columns in your local newspaper? Do your newspapers still have these columns?


message 2: by Darcia (new)

Darcia Helle (darciahelle) I love that your job led you to write this book! I don't think you always have to "write what you know" but I do think we should always use what we know!

I must confess, I don't read the newspaper at all. (I know, I'm one of those.) I'm not even sure that our newspaper has a 25 Years Ago Today column. I've never seen one. However, now I will have to look! What a great way to find little tidbits and ideas!


message 3: by Stacy (new)

Stacy Juba | 20 comments Mod
Thanks for your comments, Darcia. I haven't noticed those columns lately in the local papers that I read either, though I mostly read weeklies and monthlies.

As I prepare for my library talk this weekend, I've also been recalling my days of writing obits, which influenced the writing of the book.

This was just before email was popular, so the obits would come in via fax, mail, telephone, and sometimes a funeral director would hand-deliver a write-up. They all had to be typed or re-typed. A handful was considered a "slow day" and my heaviest day was over 20. I was the only person typing them up, and I was also answering the phone and typing up other odds and ends for the paper, on deadline. Stressful! Though if I had over 15 obits, I'd start passing them around the newsroom and everyone pitched in.

I mentioned in the book how Kris once made a mistake in an obit and felt terrible. That happened to me a couple of times also. Sometimes the funeral directors even made mistakes, and I'd have to try to catch them. Because the obituary section is a very important section of the newspaper, the composing room staff would proof the obits on the page very carefully.

It was fun to write what I know with this book, but I also like to write about what I don't know and to learn new things - which is what I'm doing with my new series-in-progress.


message 4: by Darcia (new)

Darcia Helle (darciahelle) We're all human, so mistakes happen. But I'm sure that making a mistake in the obit section could cause a wee bit of hysteria in some people!

When I was younger, my grandparents always read the obituary section of the newspaper every day. I thought it was strange, like they had some sort of morbid fascination. Now my parents do it. I wonder if someday I will do it as well!

What is your new series about?


message 5: by Stacy (last edited Mar 18, 2010 06:01PM) (new)

Stacy Juba | 20 comments Mod
It could definitely cause hysteria, and understandably so! The newspaper would rerun the obit if a mistake was made, but it is the worst place to make a mistake in the newspaper.

The new series is about a psychic massage therapist and hands-on healer who co-owns a metaphysical shop. I'm working on the first book in the series Sign of the Messenger, which is a recipient of the William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Grant awarded annually at the Agatha Awards Banquet. I'm trained in Reiki (a form of hands-on healing) and am very interested in metaphysical topics and holistic treatments like acupuncture, so it's an excuse to explore topics than I'm interested in.


message 6: by Darcia (new)

Darcia Helle (darciahelle) I love the concept for your new series! I can't wait to read the first book!

Reiki has always fascinated me. I've never had it done, though I'd like to at some point.


message 7: by Stacy (new)

Stacy Juba | 20 comments Mod
Having Reiki done on you is very relaxing. Learning to do it yourself, though, is amazing! You can actually feel energy coming through your hands.

The instructor passes on the ability to channel Reiki through a simple and mysterious process called an attunement. All it takes is one class to be able to perform Reiki yourself, and that is often just an inexpensive weekend workshop.

Learning the other two levels is also done via workshops, which are often held over a day or weekend. With level two, you can send Reiki long distance, and with level 3, you learn how to teach others. The International Center for Reiki Training (http://www.reiki.org/) is a wonderful resource and gives a broad overview on the Reiki FAQ section.


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