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Yahoo! Voices

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The latest development in my freelancing career involves Yahoo’s Contributor Network, through which writers, bloggers, photographers and videographers  of all sorts, across a wide range of topics and perspectives, contribute articles, stories, opinion pieces, etc.  — and get paid for it!

Gabriel García-Márquez

The general subject categories include news, finance, entertainment, shopping, sports and movies. The specific category that caught my attention was Yahoo Voices, an initiative to build an on-line digital library in areas of general interest such as auto, business, health, tech travel — and even creative writing. Seeing this latter category, out of curiosity I took a look at what kind of stories the editors were looking for. I was pleasantly surprised to see, among the assignments offered, one that would discuss North America’s top five “magical realist” authors. Since discovering Franz Kafka in high school and Gabriel García-Márquez in college, this literary genre has fascinated me.

So I submitted a short article titled Magical Realism: North America’s Top Five Authors, told everyone about it, and quickly garnered over 100 hits.

James Hearst
1900-1983

Encouraged by this start, I then claimed an assignment to write a short essay on my favorite poet. Although my reading tastes tend toward novels, short stories, and historical nonfiction, I was quite taken a few years ago when introduced to the work of James Hearst, a farmer/poet/professor who was Iowa’s unofficial poet laureate throughout most of the 20th century.

USS La Moure Country (LST-1194)

The next assignment that piqued my interest was one calling for a first-person account of some aspect of my military career. Of course, four years in the Navy left me with enough stories, anecdotes and recollections to fill a book. I decided to use a rather vivid episode that I witnessed in Germany on my first extended overseas cruise on my first ship, the USS La Moure County (LST-1194). Titled My Navy Career & Americans’ Historical Memory Loss: What a Doomed Overseas Romance Taught Me, it employs a true-life, latter-day Romeo and Juliet episode to illustrate a larger point about the very selective way Americans learn and remember their history.

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Spec. 5 Dennis Koepp
1940-1968

My fourth article appeared on Memorial Day 2013, when Yahoo voices invited stories from family and friends of American service members who died during military service to share memories and photos of them. I wrote a short piece about an uncle-in-law, Dennis Koepp, who died from a kidney infection while serving in Vietnam as an Army corpsman.

I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from family, friends and professional acquaintances about these articles, and even made a few bucks, too (which is always nice), so I will certainly be contributing further articles as congenial assignments are offered.

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After the Flood

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Thomas Wolfe once famously declared that “You can’t go home again.” While that may well be true (and my personal experience tends to confirm that assertion), you can always at least write home via e-mail or an old-fashioned letter. On a professional level, it can be done with a contribution to one’s hometown newspaper or magazine. An old buddy of mine, John McMahon, himself a regular contributor to Artvoice, a weekly magazine out of Buffalo, got in touch with me after the Iowa floods of June ’08 and suggested I might wish to write a story about them from the perspective of a former Buffalonian.

John put me in touch with Geoff Kelly, Artvoice‘s editor, who liked the idea. In fact, he ended up using it as the cover story for the July 3, 2008 issue under the title “Iowa Dispatch: After the Flood.” [To read the story as it appeared on Artvoice‘s Web site, click here; to view the print version, click here.]

I was quite gratified when I learned that the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies featured the story as an “Editor’s Pick,” as seen on its Web site, Altweeklies.com. The AAN represents 129 papers published in 41 states, the District of Columbia and four Canadian provinces, and through its Web portal strives to bring high-quality journalism to an international audience with a different perspective than generally found on wire-service and daily-newspaper websites. Recognition by one’s peers is especially flattering!