This week is all about Steve Hochstadt, author of Freedom of the Press in Small-Town America: My Opinions.
Learn more about Steve and his path to become an author in our interview with him below.
Tell me about your journey to becoming a writer.
Writing is a part of being an historian, beginning with the dissertation at the end of graduate school. I don’t think that just doing writing makes one “a writer”, though. I have worked hard on the craft of writing for nearly 50 years: learning how to put together sentences; finding the best words to express my meaning; eliminating extra words; ordering and re-ordering what I write so that it flows logically. Everything that I write is rewritten multiple times.
What was the main inspiration behind your book?
I have been writing op-eds, mostly about politics, since 2005. A few years ago, I began to think that a collection of essays might say something about how American politics has developed and about how I developed as an op-ed writer.
What kind of research did you have to do for it?
My research happens every week as I put together my op-eds about many different subjects. For this book, I investigated how many of the subjects I had written about years before had developed since then. Because I often write about daily life, living well is the best research.
What was your writing routine?
For my op-eds, which were due at the newspaper office by Sunday night for Tuesday publication, I typically began at the end of the week, and worked during the weekend to finish each piece. Ideas came to me at all times of the day, which would motivate immediate surges of writing. Sunday night was crunch time.
Describe your book in one sentence.
A collection of short essays which trace the development of American politics over the past 15 years.
Tell us about the best writing advice you’ve ever received.
Leonard Pitts, the nationally syndicated op-ed writer for the Miami Herald, told me that the opening of an op-ed needs to catch the reader’s attention right away.
Do you have any upcoming events?
I will talk about the book and local journalism in Jacksonville IL with the Kiwanis in the spring.
Tell us something about you that your fans may not know or something that you want to share.
I believe in persistence as a key to success. I did not get into the first graduate schools I applied to, I did not get the first teaching jobs I applied for, I received many rejections for books I wanted to publish, I asked many times for the position as an op-ed writer in Jacksonville before I was allowed to write every week.
I may have learned about persistence from my career as a high-school athlete. Our high school had a team that competed in the Marine Corps physical fitness program. We did push-ups and pull-ups and sit-ups and running every day from 9th grade through senior year. At the end of my senior year, we won the first national physical fitness meet, and I placed second in the country behind one of my teammates.
Why should people read your book?
To learn about many aspects of American society, economy and politics. To understand more about what it means to be an op-ed writer in middle America. To think about familiar subjects in a new way.