NOTE: DCP author Ted Berland has shared with us a five-part series about his life as a writer. We hope you enjoy getting to know this prolific author who wrote The Diabetic Wine Lover’s Guide, published by Dudley Court Press in 2015.
Fledgling writers frequently ask,”How do you find subjects to write about?”
In school, they were assigned subjects to write about.
However, in the ”real world” you have to be creative, resourceful, and enterprising. If you work for a publication, you are assigned a “beat,” which is a mother lode of related activities from which to dig articles. Examples are: the fire department, the police department, and the coroner’s office.
My experience as a writer suggests that, unless you are writing your memoirs, you have to get up and go out to find subjects to write about! While I write mainly nonfiction, the same principle applies to writing novels: readers expect fiction plots to revolve around and contain details in reality.
Here are a few examples from my life.
- I was hired as wire editor by a local newspaper, The Champaign-Urbana Courier, when I graduated from The University of Illinois. It was a desk job and I was itching to go out and write articles. A big local story was an epidemic of polio. At a social event I met one of the doctors who worked on that ward at the local hospital. Introduced to him, I asked so many pertinent questions that he finally suggested that I visit the ward sometime. I told this to my editor, who, after revealing that the doctor was a friend, allowed me to follow up. The visit to the ward full of children who were in varying stages of paralysis affected me so deeply that I wrote an article which was lauded by my editor, colleagues on the paper, the doctor and the local community.
- During the Korean War, I was stationed at the U.S. Air Force base in Montana, I wrote and contributed articles and photos which were published in the local newspaper, the Great Falls Tribune. They were about off-base activities of our Airmen, such as prospecting for uranium in the local mountains (They never found any.) and adapting and configuring a local slope for skiing (They succeeded at this.).
- After my service I wrote publicity articles for a Chicago hospital. I got more than food at lunch, listening to conversations at the doctors’ table. Later, at a similar writing job at a university, I mined article ideas from the Round Table conversations of leading research scientists.
- When I was freelancing for medical publications, I mined article subjects by attending medical conventions held in Chicago and elsewhere.
- In 1962 I heard that a local university hospital just sent a handful of its doctors to an Algiers hospital to replace the French doctors who had fled after the war for independence. I flew there and discovered that I was the only American correspondent. I sent back a series of daily articles that were published in a Chicago newspaper and syndicated. I also sold articles and photos to medical publications.
- When I learned that I could apply for a National Science Foundation Press Fellowship to Antarctica, I leaped at the opportunity, was accepted, and dug out of that remote and icy place many articles for different publications.
- In November 1963 a US Air Force plane dropped us passengers—reporters and photographers—off at the air base in Christchurch, New Zealand. The next day A US Navy plane would take us to the ice, specifically the Naval base at McMurdo Station, on Ross Ice Shelf. This settlement houses researchers, their laboratories, and living accommodations.
- In New Zealand on the way down I had interviewed a physician who had developed a technique for doing surgery on fetuses still in the womb. I sold that article go a doctor’s magazine. We were on the way home when President Kennedy was killed. I was so moved by the tearful reaction of New Zealanders that I wrote an article describing it and published it in The Chicago Daily News.
- As a result of my immersion in the science and medical worlds, I wrote 18 solo books and contributed chapters to some 6 others. Also: editors and publishers asked me to write about the subjects that interested them, and, by extension, would interest the reading public.
- This book, The Diabetic Wine Lover’s Guide, was written at the suggestion of a diabetic friend, the former public relations director for the California wine industry, and at the urgings of my wife, who was a gourmet chef and diabetic.
The disease killed each, at a separate time and place.
©2016 Theodore Berland /All Rights Reserved