Inspiration for writers
with R.S. Karunaratne
Today, it is somewhat easy to become a journalist or writer. There are many newspapers, magazines and websites. You can follow a journalism course or join a newspaper as a cub reporter. Unlike in other jobs most editors are not interested in your academic qualifications. They are looking for people who can write. However, they will not teach you how to write. Writing a copy or story is your job. If you cannot write, never step into a newspaper office.
As an eight-year-old boy I used to write some silly notes on pages torn out of exercise books and leave them on the road. From a hiding place, I used to watch whether anyone would read what I had written. I did not see anyone reading them, but I wanted people to read what I wrote.
I remember reading Jenna Glatzer's inspiring article which described how she became a journalist and writer. She contributed so many articles to newspapers. In a few days they were returned with rejection slips. At one time her drawer was full of rejection slips. While studying for SSC (Senior School Certificate), I applied for the post of trainee journalist at the Independent Newspapers (Dawasa Group). In a few days I received a letter from the editor which said, "We have no time to train young people."
Coming back to Glatzer I remember her telling how she got her first break as a writer. After a long struggle she managed to get some of her writings published in lesser known magazines and newspapers. She also wrote a few small books on different subjects. Actually, they were meant for children.With a view to becoming a full-time journalist she sent her resume to some of the newspaper editors, but she didn't get even an acknowledgement.
I too, had a similar experience in the 1960s and 70s. By that time I had written some children's stories and other small features.
Fortunately, they had been published in lesser known magazines and newspapers. One day I received a cheque for Rs 25 from the Ceylon Daily News. I considered it a treasure. Although I continued to write regularly and sent my CV to editors, I did not receive any response.
One day Glatzer received an unassuming email asking her whether she was interested in writing the biography of Celine Dion. As she was a celebrity, Glatzer did not know what to do. Later she found out that the editor had selected her for the job because of her 'warmth' in writing. Once she wrote an article about a man who rowed a boat around Long Island every year to raise money for breast cancer research.
After contributing many articles to newspapers I received a letter from Vijitha Yapa, founder Editor of The Island asking me to come for an interview. I was excited to be interviewed by an editor.
"Do you like to work as a sub editor?" He asked looking at me sternly.
I said, 'Yes' and resigned from my dreary government job. That was the first step I took in the world of journalism. He was a very strict editor who taught me the rudiments of journalism.
Let me come back to Glatzer again. She was excited to meet Celine Dion in Las Vegas. Some of her friends tried to dissuade her from meeting Celine Dion. They told her that celebrities would treat her like dirt. When she boarded the plane Glatzer cried. She wondered why she decided to do it. When she met Celine all her inhibitions disappeared. Celine was a friendly person who treated Glatzer like a close friend.
Thereafter, Glatzer met Celine for several months. She also made it a point to meet some of her fans. When fans came to know that Glatzer was writing Celine's biography,they also gave her a lot of information about the celebrity. One day Celine told her that she never wanted to talk to a journalist because she didn't trust them, but Celine changed her attitude when she met Glatzer.
Source of inspiration
All writers need some inspiration from time to time. If there is no inspiration they cannot do their job properly. However, most of us do not know the source of our inspiration. If you wish to be a journalist, you will have to read about great journalists and editors and how they became prominent in society.
I was really fascinated by the life story of Bob Woodward, a young journalist who was smart and eager for hard work. He would go on an assignment without hesitation. No matter where he went or who he met, he got people to talk. When he was sent to police headquarters, he made friends.
Unknown to most senior journalists Woodward came from the heartland of America. He was a compulsive journalist who was wildly ambitious. When he tried to join the Washington Post, the editor told him, "This is a fast league, a big-time paper. We have no time to teach you." However, Woodward kept pushing and demanded a position in a newspaper. When the editor realized that he could no longer put him off, he was given a three-week trial. His first story was a routine news item which announced the deadline for applying for local elections.
After one year's hard work Woodward was appointed as a journalist at the Washington Post. His editors were pleased with him.
He proved himself to be the embodiment of a new kind of reporter. One day, Bradlee, the Managing Editor, lunching with some of the new reporters asked, "Which one of you is Woodward?" "I am," said Woodward.
"You are all over the paper, that's good. Keep it up!" Woodward felt that he had been anointed as a journalist.
Only dedicated people such as Woodward will last long in journalism.
- China to provide 90 water bowsers worth Rs 1b 2114
- Wag the Dog 2136
- A brief look at FARC’s origins in Colombia 2079
- ‘Panama Papers’ bags Pulitzer 2091
- SAITM will cooperate with Govt 2105
- dead man was near fashion mall 2135
- Japanese MPs back Lanka’s development 2104
- CB Bond earnings whitewashed – JVP 2112
- Talks to extend Lanka’s Continental Shelf 2105
- Ex-DIG and son re-remanded 2117
- Government can be sent home 2649
- GMOA flogging SAITM for Mahinda– Rajitha 2115
- Ranil invites Japan to invest in S. Asia 2098
- Somali Pirates’ Captives Back Home 2103
- Customs in Rs 8 M bust 2106
- Redefining Rape 2146
- The march of folly Our mad Cabinet system 1738
- First adventures in Europe 1824
- Inspiration for writers 1822
- Sri Lanka’s sustainable development dream 1896
- Sinhala and Tamil New Year with Easter 1967
- Filipino Oconer wins overall title 1740
- Unsporty conduct by Joes 1775
- Bertie Wijesinghe, pre-Test era Sri Lankan cricketer, dies aged 96 1760
- CEAT revs up for 2017 1744
- Palace shock Arsenal 1734
- Argentina fire coach Bauza 1749
- BCCI postpones SGM to 18 April 1736
- Murray returns from injury 1734
- New mum Azarenka to return to WTA 1727
- Galle win by 188 runs 1722
- Keeping Cool 1746
- Do the right thing and do it now! 1746
- Ravi Jayewardene Pious son of a political giant 2326
- In the heart of the old country 2165
- Sarath Weerasekera’s Geneva adventure 1965
- No moral right to play with public funds 1901
- No need for fine if route permits are issued in fair, just manner 1777
- UDA incurs Rs 330M Loss 1733
- DOUSING A MEGA SHIP FIRE 1565
- Health authorities in denial? 2032
- Minorities’ frustration a powder keg – VIDURA 2088
- Administrative powers a must for the Plantation Tamils –Radhakrishnan 1341
- Rajapaksa sought advice from McGuinness– Indika Perera 2443
- I will lead SLFP to victory in future elections – President 1861
- Hang the ‘traitors’– RTD. REAR ADMIRAL WEERASEKARA 2158
- We oppose Nationalism and Federalism – Samarasinghe 2956
- SilkAir launches direct flights to Colombo 1779
- Rupee falls on thin volumes 1740
- SriLankan, Japan Airlines add new routes 1764
- Colombo Port box volume up 5.6-pct in Jan 1738
- Private sector to transform into main domestic growth engine 1764
- Oil eases from 5-week top, rising US production weighs 1735
- Tight fiscal and monetary policies constrain SL’s growth 1754
- Shell admits dealing with money launderer 1752
- Toshiba may sell chip business to Foxconn for $27bn 1736
- Asian shares pressured by geopolitical risks; Nikkei down 0.25% 1740
- SLIM launches Certificate in Digital Marketing 1744
- Microsoft Hosts Second ‘Device Day’ in Sri Lanka 1736
- Emirates named Best Airline in the World 1740
- Turkish Airlines and social media assist Somalia 1740
- Brain cell therapy ‘promising’ for Parkinson’s disease 1745
- Trump pushed into bombing Syria 1783
- Thailand discovers Power of Women Travellers 1751
- Economics of gambling 1622
- Trans National Aural Identity 3316
- Queen Anula The Shadow of Cleopatra 3341
- Poetry and its possibilities Part 2 3364
- The Enigma of Labyrinths 3468
- From Couture to Kutir 3341
- Hybrid Sources 4740
- Offering Riddles & Enigmas 4812
- Poetry and its possibilities 4824
- With a festive bang! 969
- Easter Fun 964
- Arrogance and crowing is the way of the doomed 983
- Avurudu on the streets 1004
- Tick control 976
- Sunny Sunday on the beach 983
- It’s time to save the world 1047
- From viewer to YouTuber! 1040
- Expert skincare and makeup 1053
- Avurudu at Induruwa 1018
- Exo 1047
- Remembering our fallen heroes 2127