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Politically Incorrect

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A look at who you find in the pages of the River Journal

Do you remember the commercials on television when they first came out with the Reese’s peanut butter cup candy bar? It was a whole series of images about how someone with peanut butter bumped into someone with chocolate and oh, what a glorious combination it turned out to be, even though conventional wisdom would have it the two couldn’t possibly mix.

That’s kind of what it’s like for writers and deadlines. From the writer’s standpoint, a deadline is absolutely the last thing he or she wants to see approaching, and from the deadline’s standpoint... well, if a deadline could have a standpoint, it would probably be in shock to see a writer approaching.

And there’s nothing quite like changing a writer’s deadline to illustrate that point.

In this magazine, the first River Journal as a magazine format, there are stories from 30 different writers, seven of whom are new to the deadline game and 23 who should, of course, be old hats at it by now. (It should have been 32 writers but two people weren’t able to come within even a mile of deadline - maybe you’ll read what they have to say in a future issue.) Each of these writers have their own unique way of approaching a story, their own little quirks in the way they write, and their own way of meeting a deadline. If you’re a newcomer to the River Journal, let me introduce you to some of the people who make this publication “worth wading through.” If you’re an old-timer, maybe you’ll learn something about one of your favorites that you didn’t know before.

Jinx (here and here), for example, types up her stories with minimal punctuation and capitalization, and not a single paragraph return. She’s also going blind as a bat, so they hit my email in a size 27 font. Just one of her stories, pasted “as is” on the page, is a never-ending series of words that stretches for 8 or 9 pages. Jinx lives life as a disaster waiting to happen (that’s not a criticism, as we’re just alike) and, once it happens, she writes about it.

Boots (here), on the other hand, flings punctuation, capital letters and paragraph returns into his stories like he’s sprinkling salt onto his breakfast tomatoes, not to mention words that, even after studying the “Hooked on Phonics” tapes, take a team of readers to decipher. (Sometimes Becky proofreads his stories before he sends them. The first time she did so, I sent Boots an email and asked him when he found the time to go back to school!)

Boots (otherwise known as the “internationally renowned cowboy artist”) found out that his gift for gab could translate to writing and he took to it like a duck to water. He utilizes technology fully (computers and email) but doesn’t understand it in the least, which leaves him in the position of sending me half-finished stories or else sending them somewhere out into the ether, while wondering why they never made it to me. It works because he’s usually a couple stories ahead.

Scott (here) writes colloquially, which means spell check is an unrealized resource for his stories. Luckily he paid attention in English class, a fact I should remember as it drives him nuts when I correct the spelling on a word he spelled incorrectly on purpose. (Sorry ‘bout that ‘commas’ thing, Scott.) Because he’s the only writer who’s not managed to move into the electronic world, I have to type in all his stories - so changes can happen frequently. No matter how you spell those words, however, they’re almost always funny. (If they’re not, they’re probably not spelled the way he intended.)

Lou (here) is a consummate professional, which means word count is hit perfectly and deadline is met generally the day before... unless the river is beckoning, in which case deadline has to wait until rafting is done with. Lou’s “Currents” generally tells some sort of tale about water, our area’s greatest natural resource.

Marianne (here), on the other hand, is the consummate professional... writer. That means, if she thinks the story deserves it, I’ll get an email asking for extra days and possibly an extra thousand words or so. I’d tell her no, except she’s always right about what it’s going to take to make a story.

Marianne loves (pun not intended) to tell the stories of the people and locations that made this area a place where other people want to live.

Paul (here) not only meets his deadlines, he meets them early, leaving me confused about all the other deadlines that are out there waiting to be met. I get a story from Paul and have to sit down with a calendar and find out what day it is, because he generally doesn’t have one due. Paul (who just celebrated his 90th birthday) should be our resident “irascible professor” but he smiles too much for the adjective. Nonetheless, as an old-style Republican he has a lot to say about our political process.

Paul’s an early bird but George (here) is not. Without fail, George waits ‘til the day before we send the final product off to the printer to send his story in. George, I think, has a sign like the one I have on my office wall - “there’s nothing more productive than the last minute.” As our northern Idaho representative to the Idaho legislature, he keeps us up-to-date on what’s going on with the government, and manages to do it without the “vote for me” subtitles.

Anyone who knows Sandy (here) will not be surprised to find out that he’s changeable when it comes to deadlines and writing. One issue he’ll send me something a week early, the next I’ve sent him 12 reminders without hearing a word in return. “Lick it and stick it!” he used to say, a promise that I needn’t worry because his column would take only a minute to put into place, with no further work on my part. Sandy tends to be a positive thinker. Which might explain why he came to the River Journal all those years ago and stuck around.

I shared an office with Ernie (here) for a long time. His writing has slowly grown more philosophical through the years, probably reflecting the positive influence of his lovely wife, Linda, the first River Journal marriage we ever had. (I was Ernie’s best man.) Don’t let his stories fool you, though - I’ve watched Ernie fight with his computer. In fact, the computer fighting he so frequently engages in probably drains his body of negative energy, allowing him to write in such a positive vein. I have lots of stories I could tell but I’m holding out for cash money for them.

Jody (here and here) is, quite simply, the best brother a gal could ask for, even if he does let Microsoft change ‘til to till. He’s a fan of ampersands, abbreviations and capital letters, all of which I take out before his stories print. He not only writes for the River Journal, he’s the northern Idaho delivery boy (Sandpoint to Bonners) and the sole, entire reason why I’m sane today. (If you don’t think I’m sane, you have no clue how I could have turned out!)

Keeping it in the family, Dustin (here) is my favorite son and not just ‘cause he’s my only one - I really like the boy. I especially like that he shares my political viewpoints and my sense of humor, though he’s more athletic than I’ll ever be. He’s also always willing to help his mama out, even agreeing to spend the morning of his 21st birthday at a newspaper event on my behalf. (Of course, it’s the grand opening of Aftershock, Silverwood’s newest roller coaster. I try to be smart in what I ask for.) Dustin’s can sit down and write a story in about 15 minutes, which makes all the rest of us want to strangle him. That’s a good ability, as he thinks of deadlines like George does - something to meet at the very last minute.

Thomas (here and here) is my other boy (my daughter Amy’s boyfriend) and my resource for all things technological. He’s also a good liar, a good trait for all storytellers to possess. As a recent high school graduate Thomas has struggled a bit lately with deadlines, but he promises to keep sending in his stories, even from college.

Kate (here) is not as young as she looks in her pictures, but she’s just as smart as her writing would lead you to believe. She meets every deadline (though she’s never early) and I would bet she’s never written a story under a thousand words in her life. She has an avid appreciation for the outdoors, reflected in her writing, and I heard on the street she’s bound and determined to take up hunting this year.

Michael (here) matches Kate in word count, though deadlines are something he struggles with. Land management, however, he knows inside and out. I don’t let him near my house because I don’t want him to see my tansy and knapweed - or the ruts in the driveway. He’d expect me to fix them immediately. They’re on my list - just not very high on it.

Matt (here) is our area game warden and according to my daughter Misty (whose fishing license he checks every time he sees her) he’s a great guy to boot. For those of you who remember JJ, who wrote for us until he retired, let me say I can see a future Matt describing poachers as “scrotes.” His obvious love for this area, and his passion to protect it, shows in every column he writes.

Kathy (here), like Gary who shares that column with her, always meets deadline, even if she’s sometimes a little late. This pair demonstrate daily and in their writing the positive power that God can have on a person’s life.

Dick (here) is another who always meets deadline... when he’s reminded to. As Superintendent of LPOSD, he’s a busy man, though never too busy to tell a story. He sure likes his Oxford commas, though.

Lawrence (here) is our newest columnist prior to the new format and, so far, he’s generally weeks ahead of his deadline. We’ll see how long that lasts. As a writer of ghost stories, he doesn’t have to deal with the delays of doing interviews - I think.

Desi (here) doesn’t write a column but that’s about the only thing she doesn’t write. A late-in-life college student studying journalism, she has an enthusiasm that’s contagious, and a wealth of energy I’d like to siphon. She also has a lot of neat ideas that she’ll be bringing to the pages of the River Journal in the months to come.

Duke (here) is as good a writer as he is a chef; he’s another who always meets deadline when he’s aware of it, which is a good thing as when his story comes in, I stop what I’m doing it, read it, then go cook. Plan on a lunch break after you read what he writes.

Jim (here) doesn’t write exclusively for me, so he meets my deadlines when they happen to coincide with his own. As the democratic Senator for western Montana, he explains clearly the issues facing his state and the reasons for his beliefs and decisions.

And our new writers? With only one deadline under their belt it’s hard to say. Three were early, two were on time, one was late and one still hasn’t met the deadline as I write this. But here’s what I can share.

Emily (here) was the perfect choice to write about local foods as she chose to become a strict locavore for a year. Laura (here) is the Chairman of Bonner County’s recently revitalized Democratic party and will share the viewpoint of Idaho’s minority party. The Sandpoint Wellness Council (here), under the organizational leadership of Krystle Shapiro, has big plans for answering area questions about health concerns. Mike (here) is a high school teacher who really knows his birds and will make sure that you do, as well. Clint (here) stepped in at the last minute for Scott, who’s in school learning to sell investments. Hanna (here) is one of those high school students who puts the lie to how badly schools are teaching kids. And Angela (here)... well, Angela is the one who hasn’t met deadline yet, but as our friendship is more than halfway through its second decade, I’m willing to give her a break. And I trust her enough to assume she’s going to meet it before we go to print.

So there it is - the reasons why we are able to call this the publication worth wading through. If this is your first foray, jump in. And if you’re an old-timer - thanks for sticking with us.

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Landon Otis

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