I went to hear Dana Jennings talk about his life story yesterday, and learned something about myself. I'll post more about my ah-hah tomorrow. This one is all about him. He was visiting our mutual alma mater, UNH, as The 2010 Don Murray visiting journalist.
I was not familiar with him, but my friend and partner in The Prickly Pear Poetry Project, was a follower of his NYT Wellness Blog, and as I'm taking a graduate course called Narrating Illness, I wanted to attend.
Dana's story is a fascinating one which is good since at 52 he is about to release his second memoir. He grew up in Kingston, New Hampshire, not far from where I live now. Like me, he was the first person in his family tree to go to college. Eventually he left our little apple state for the Big Apple, and became a writer and editor at The New York Times, while writing several books.
Somewhere around his fiftieth birthday he was diagnosed with stage 3 prostate cancer, and he began blogging about it for The Times. The blog was, and still is, quite popular, and his latest book deal sprang from it. It has also earned him several awards.
I liked what he had to say about blogging; that the craftmanship required of good journalism still applies, and that it is a valid contribution to the current canon. He feels unsure and skeptical about the future of newspapers, but more optimistic about the future of books. As with his battle with cancer, he knows relentless odds can be beat.
I especially want to share the following post fom his blog, which he read to us during his lecture. I was so impressed, not about his cancer battle though I respect that immensely, but because he seems to have written what I feel, and for any writer to nail that, least of all a guy, is amazing. That is good writing. I would say Dana is no longer a man paused, he seems to be going strong, like a literary Lance Armstrong.
Here he is giving an introduction to his next book, due out soon, about his dog and his recovery. Bloggers will be interested to know that this book deal came about due to his blog, when not one, but several publishers, responded to his post about his aging dog. He has already released one memoir that I am very intersted in reading that covers his youth here in New Hampshire, and seems to also be about country music, and what the two have in common. I am intrigued.