Ohio Journalist

All the Write Stuff

BY Kelly Doran | Photos provided by Turney Duff

(December 1, 2015) — When Turney Duff graduated from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism in 1993, he was hoping to move to New York and get a job in public relations or at a magazine. He did move to New York — but worked on Wall Street instead.

Those 15 years are the focus of Duff’s book, “The Buy Side,” in which he describes his life on Wall Street.

Duff decided to write his book when he was returning from his second stay at drug and alcohol rehab. He started writing to fill a void that he had tried to fill with drugs, sex, alcohol and power for 15 years.

Duff said he had tunnel vision while he was writing the book. He knew he had to tell the truth, but he shielded himself from the thoughts of others reading his story. Two weeks before the publication date, Duff said he had a “whatdid-I-just-do?” moment where all of his fears and questions hit all at once, but there was no turning back.

“Going into it while I was writing, the only thing I cared about was telling the truth,” Duff said.

Duff praised the PR and marketing skills he learned at Ohio University, which he said have been invaluable in selling his book. He said that he learned a lot of basics in his core curriculum classes and that the social skills he learned helped him have a successful Wall Street career.

“The Buy Side” was optioned by Sony to be made into a TV show. The next step is finding a network to buy it, according to Duff.

Duff is currently working with an agent on a rewrite of a second book. He is also ghost writing another book while doing speaking engagements and writing for CNBC.com.

Robert Sberna also writes about addiction in “House of Horrors,” a book he wrote to tell people’s stories — the same reason he went into journalism.

Sberna, a 1978 graduate of the journalism school, said that when the media started covering the case of Anthony Sowell, also known as the Cleveland Strangler, the women he murdered became stigmatized as “crackheads.” This bothered Sberna, leading him to write a book about Sowell and the 11 women he killed and the other five women he attacked, so readers would know these women as people and not as crackheads.

“When I described the women as more than just addicts and the family members appreciated that, that was gratifying,” Sberna said. Several family members of the murdered women even showed up at some of his book signings.

Sberna, who won ForeWord Reviews’ “True Crime Book of the Year Award” in 2012, emphasized that fact checking was very important in his book.

The importance on fact checking had been ingrained into him in class, where he would get an F for an incorrect name or fact. Sberna said that the journalism school gave him a rigorous education in accuracy, deadlines, thoroughness and writing quickly.

Sberna also credits OU with teaching him to write a good lead. His professor would rip his story out of the typewriter and tear it up if he didn’t like the lead.

Sberna is currently freelancing for Great Lakes Publishing, writing magazine articles in addition to working on three books.

“There is probably no better job for learning about all aspects of the world we live in and talking to accomplished people and getting paid for it, but with that privilege comes the responsibility of being objective, balanced and accurate,” Sberna said.

Author Tony Meale (MSJ ’08) credits the master’s program in journalism with opening his eyes to long-form writing and showing him that writing a book was possible.

Meale said that writing a thesis that was about 90 pages made him realize he could write a book. So, as the tenth anniversary of the only basketball game in which LeBron James was defeated in high school was approaching, Meale decided to write a book about that team. He was very passionate about the topic and he knew it would appeal to a certain audience.

Meale also was looking for a way to stay in the journalism field and make a sustainable living. “The Chosen Ones: The Team That Beat LeBron” was released in June 2011.

The book, according to Meale, got good reviews and good exposure and has helped him out in his career. Meale has written thousands of stories as a freelancer. He finds that people are more likely to give him freelance work now that he is an author.

“When you write a book, people see you as an authority on something and they tend to respect that more,” Meale said. Writing this book was a way to invest in his career.

Susan Quimpo graduated in the early 1990s with a dual master’s in journalism and international affairs.

Quimpo’s book, “Subversive Lives,” is a family memoir, so it actually has nine authors. Seven of the authors are siblings, including Quimpo, who together weaved their stories into a book. Quimpo was the youngest of 10, but two of her siblings died. Her sister-in-law also contributed, and Quimpo used letters that her other sibling had written.

The Quimpo children grew up in the Ferdinand Marcos years in the Philippines. Quimpo decided to write the book while she was working on her professional project at OU. She said that a creative nonfiction course she took at OU also helped her to understand how to write a book.

“We decided that to tell our story would be to also tell the story of the revolutionary movement in the Philippines during that time,” Quimpo said. Quimpo said she hopes readers will be able to learn of the sacrifices of the people who died during this time.

Quimpo now freelances in the Philippines and is an art therapist, in addition to working on another book.

Susan King also made her family’s personal experiences the topic of her new book.

In 1983, King was the first public relations student in Scripps to be named outstanding graduate. After graduation, King worked in multiple PR companies and as a book editor. However, she felt called to quit working after her son, Patrick, was diagnosed with autism.

“Optimism for Autism,” written with Patrick, was released on World Autism Day, April 2, 2014 which meant a lot to King. She decided to write a book for two main reasons. King said she has always had a heart for parents of special needs kids because of her experiences with her son. She wanted to offer encouragement and hope to them.

King also wrote the book because a lot of people who saw her situation and watched her son grow up encouraged her to document her experiences.

In addition to being helpful for parents of special needs kids, King said she thinks her book can be helpful for anyone facing a severe challenge in life. “Our goal is that people would not just survive in living with autism but they would thrive in the middle of that,” King said.

Chris Rodell also hopes to help people, although his book is much more general.

Rodell, who graduated in 1985, likes to say he has written for or been rejected by every great magazine in America.

Since 1992, Rodell has been freelancing. He currently is the author of seven books and the blog Eight Days to Amish. However, Rodell said his most recent book, “Use All the Crayons,” is the first book he’s proud of.

Rodell got the idea for his book about five years ago when he realized that many of his professional goals hadn’t been met and he was often broke.

“I looked around and I thought, I’m a happy man who shouldn’t be, by many standards. I didn’t have prestige, I didn’t have money and a lot of the book proposals I put together had been rejected and I thought, but I’m still happy,” Rodell said.

Rodell decided to take a chance and self-publish. He said the reason his book is successful is that most self-help books sound like a Sunday school teacher writes them. His book, on the other hand, was written by a guy “who admits that he likes to drink, swear, screw and smoke.”

Rodell is unique in that he gives his book away free for anyone who asks. He believes this book can make people happy, and if someone cannot afford the book, they should still be able to read it.

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