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 2295
- Wag the Dog 2292
- A brief look at FARC’s origins in Colombia 2239
- ‘Panama Papers’ bags Pulitzer 2262
- SAITM will cooperate with Govt 2269
- dead man was near fashion mall 2304
- Japanese MPs back Lanka’s development 2267
- CB Bond earnings whitewashed – JVP 2278
- Talks to extend Lanka’s Continental Shelf 2289
- Ex-DIG and son re-remanded 2280
- Government can be sent home 2818
- GMOA flogging SAITM for Mahinda– Rajitha 2288
- Ranil invites Japan to invest in S. Asia 2257
- Somali Pirates’ Captives Back Home 2271
- Customs in Rs 8 M bust 2267
- Redefining Rape 2433
- The march of folly Our mad Cabinet system 1916
- First adventures in Europe 2002
- Inspiration for writers 1973
- Sri Lanka’s sustainable development dream 2301
- Sinhala and Tamil New Year with Easter 2172
- Filipino Oconer wins overall title 1908
- Unsporty conduct by Joes 1957
- Bertie Wijesinghe, pre-Test era Sri Lankan cricketer, dies aged 96 1932
- CEAT revs up for 2017 1922
- Palace shock Arsenal 1895
- Argentina fire coach Bauza 1919
- BCCI postpones SGM to 18 April 1889
- Murray returns from injury 1908
- New mum Azarenka to return to WTA 1864
- Galle win by 188 runs 1878
- Keeping Cool 1904
- Do the right thing and do it now! 1912
- Ravi Jayewardene Pious son of a political giant 2504
- In the heart of the old country 2329
- Sarath Weerasekera’s Geneva adventure 2155
- No moral right to play with public funds 2087
- No need for fine if route permits are issued in fair, just manner 2002
- UDA incurs Rs 330M Loss 1929
- DOUSING A MEGA SHIP FIRE 1744
- Health authorities in denial? 2230
- Minorities’ frustration a powder keg – VIDURA 2251
- Administrative powers a must for the Plantation Tamils –Radhakrishnan 1509
- Rajapaksa sought advice from McGuinness– Indika Perera 2655
- I will lead SLFP to victory in future elections – President 2032
- Hang the ‘traitors’– RTD. REAR ADMIRAL WEERASEKARA 2444
- We oppose Nationalism and Federalism – Samarasinghe 3110
- SilkAir launches direct flights to Colombo 1967
- Rupee falls on thin volumes 1941
- SriLankan, Japan Airlines add new routes 1930
- Colombo Port box volume up 5.6-pct in Jan 1922
- Private sector to transform into main domestic growth engine 1933
- Oil eases from 5-week top, rising US production weighs 1893
- Tight fiscal and monetary policies constrain SL’s growth 1920
- Shell admits dealing with money launderer 1902
- Toshiba may sell chip business to Foxconn for $27bn 1911
- Asian shares pressured by geopolitical risks; Nikkei down 0.25% 1897
- SLIM launches Certificate in Digital Marketing 1900
- Microsoft Hosts Second ‘Device Day’ in Sri Lanka 1900
- Emirates named Best Airline in the World 1881
- Turkish Airlines and social media assist Somalia 1901
- Brain cell therapy ‘promising’ for Parkinson’s disease 1895
- Trump pushed into bombing Syria 1956
- Thailand discovers Power of Women Travellers 1921
- Economics of gambling 1829
- Trans National Aural Identity 3486
- Queen Anula The Shadow of Cleopatra 3543
- Poetry and its possibilities Part 2 3544
- The Enigma of Labyrinths 3634
- From Couture to Kutir 3532
- Hybrid Sources 4925
- Offering Riddles & Enigmas 4986
- Poetry and its possibilities 5042
- With a festive bang! 1145
- Easter Fun 1134
- Arrogance and crowing is the way of the doomed 1183
- Avurudu on the streets 1191
- Tick control 1173
- Sunny Sunday on the beach 1153
- It’s time to save the world 1199
- From viewer to YouTuber! 1219
- Expert skincare and makeup 1242
- Avurudu at Induruwa 1210
- Exo 1237
- Remembering our fallen heroes 2327