In 2004, author Jordan Sonnenblick was still a middle school English teacher in the Phillipsburg School District. At the time I et him, he was anticipating the release of his first book, Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie, from a small publisher, Daybue. I can’t believe that we’re approaching the ten year anniversary of that event. I forget how I heard about Jordan. I don’t know if someone sent me a press release or if I heard about his success at a school board meeting. I followed up because as a writer myself, his story intrigued me.
We met in a coffee shop across the street from my office. We talked about his past, his struggles as a writer and why he rejected an offer from a big New York publisher to go with a small independent publisher instead. I remember my own awe when he said his creative writing teacher in high school was Frank McCourt. Yes, as in Angela’s Ashes. I also enjoyed his sense of humor. Apparently, success found him when he stopped trying to write the next Great American Novel and instead used the voice of a 13-year-old boy.
Shortly after all this, Sonnenblick landed a contract for Drums from Scholastic. The book now has a sequel. I’m not sure how many books he has now. 9? 10? He has one available for pre-order and it could use some hubbub. Jordan is a great guy. I’ve read several of his books and I love them.
Author Jordan Sonnenblick
The Clyde Beatty/Cole Brothers Circus invited me backstage when they performed at the Phillipsburg Mall. I watched the clowns prep for the performance, talked with the lion tamer, interviewed a corps of Russian Aerial Ballet artists and even fed the elephants. I loved those elephants. The man who took care of them handed me a loaf of bread, plain old sliced white bread and directed me to slap it into their mouths.
I had three or four slices of bread on the palm of my hand. The elephant would lift his trunk and I would stick my hand in his mouth and press the bread to his tongue. And he ate the whole loaf.
This feature appeared in the (Phillipsburg) Free Press in June 2001. I took the photos. I also photographed the show. I may have to dig those out and scan them another day.
circus, part 2
Circus, part 3
The part of being a journalist on a regular beat is the relationships you form with people. This feature on bicycle commuting featured a local business owner (Russ Padgett, Cycle Funattic in Phillipsburg, N.J.) and if I remember correctly, because it was a decade ago, the idea came from him.
To put this story together, we followed Russ on his commuting route, a good 15 miles, and our staff photographer literally hung out of my car like we were on The Dukes of Hazzard.
I like the way the story turned out, and I feel like it was a very timely piece for its day. Gas prices then were escalating, but not nearly to the extent we would see a few years later.
This ran in the Phillipsburg Chronicle, August 1, 2003 as a “Community Life” feature. For more information on Cycle Funattic, see their web site: http://www.cyclefunattic.com/.
Feature on bicycle commuting, section 1 of 3
Bicycle commuting, section 2 of 3
Russ Padgett, bicycle commuting part 3
Part one of a long front page feature
At the Chronicle, I occasionally wrote long features. I loved what these high school students were doing, so my editor gave me free reign to profile them. I took the photos, and the front page photo of Randy remains one of my favorites. June 2003. Ten years ago. I should find out what happened to these youth.