Saturday, July 1, 2017

Writers4Higher features author and blog master Darrell Laurant

 Hi Darrell. Welcome to Writers4Higher.
Tell us about yourself.

I am something of a hybrid creature, geographically speaking. While I lived in Syracuse, NY from third grade through high school, I was born in Sanford, NC, and lived in Atlanta and New Orleans early on.  Later, I went to college just outside Charlotte (Belmont Abbey College) and worked for newspapers in Columbia, Charleston and Lynchburg, VA. Thus, I have most of the iconic southern cities checked off.  Moreover, I spent several childhood summers with my grandmother in Raleigh, NC. 

The result is, I have always been able to philosophically straddle the Mason-Dixon Line, with a keen sense of the peculiarities of both northerners and southerners.

Most of my writing career has been in the newspaper business, including 36 years with the News & Advance in Lynchburg, VA. By the time I retired in 2013, I had written over 6,000 columns and another 4,000 or so feature articles for that paper, and I still freelance for them on a regular basis although my wife, my 93-year-old mother and I now live in Lake George, NY.

Remaining in one place that long was highly unusual, since journalism is normally a nomadic profession.  I did have offers from larger papers, but by then I had become very much part of the Central Virginia community and didn't want to uproot our two children. Later, of course, they uprooted themselves, my son settling in Colorado and my daughter moving to Ohio.

It pains me greatly when I hear people lump together all the myriad and diverse newspapers, TV stations, radio programs and Websites into "The Media," as if we all take our marching orders from the same source. I, too, have issues with the way news is often presented, especially on television, but I can also say that in several decades with the News & Advance, I very rarely saw any political or social agenda lurking within a news story. Only twice in 30-plus years did I hear of one of our writers actually making up facts, and both of those people were fired.

As a columnist, my job was primarily to write stories that fit somewhere into that vague but rich  territory between "hard news" and editorials. Sometimes I expressed my personal opinion, other times I just stuck to the facts. I made it a point, whenever I could, to write about people just because they were interesting, not because they had necessarily done anything "newsworthy" in the usual sense.

Among the things I'm proudest of are starting a campaign to name a local expressway after Desmond Doss (a Lynchburg man who was the only conscientious objector ever given the Medal of Honor), pushing for funds to put an elevator in a three-story YWCA residence, and convincing a regional bank to forgive a debt owed by a man who had been in a coma for several months with a head injury (they were going to foreclose on his house).

Before I beat readers over the head with my opinion, though, I always made it a point to hear both sides of any issue. Sometimes, doing that changed my mind.

For the most part, my newspaper let me pick what I wanted to write about. Although I worked in a relatively small community, I was able to cover two national political conventions (including driving cross-country to San Francisco in 1984 and writing columns along the way), the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, a lengthy and contentious coal strike, the Miss America pageant, the NCAA basketball Final Four, Pope John Paul II's visit to Columbia, SC, and any number of stories revolving around the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Lynchburg's best-known citizen. I covered Lynchburg-related stories in Guatemala and the Czech Republic.

Since retiring, I have started a blog called "Snowflakes in a Blizzard" ( which I describe as a "unique, author-friendly and absolutely free book marketing project." Go there, and you'll see what it's about.

While with the newspaper, I always tried to engage in at least one community-oriented program at a time. Over the years, I volunteered for a soup kitchen, a suicide hotline, a home for recovering alcoholics and a rural arts center.  "Snowflakes in a Blizzard" is a continuation of that. All of these activities have paid me back far more than the time I expended.

My writing career has been varied, if not necessarily wildly successful. I quit my Charleston newspaper job to start a statewide sports magazine that went broke after two years. I've published five books, and just finished my second novel, titled "The Last Supper League." Several more books are rattling around in my head, anxious to be released.

We moved to Lake George to take care of my Mom, who has dementia. This has taught us patience, never a bad thing.

My wife Gail is an artist. We've been married for 45 years and we complement each other beautifully.

Where to find Darrell Laurant:

Best to you, Darrell!

Rhett DeVane
Southern fiction author and blog master

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