Author Steve Piacente was our guest on June 26th. Listen to the Podcast now:
It all started for me in 1954. Eisenhower was president, no one beat the Yankees, and Elvis was still an unknown. TV was three channels and two colors, black and white. Growing up, I didn’t particularly like school. I liked baseball, egg rolls and comic books, and it was Superman that got me interested in reading and writing.
Raised in New York and educated in Washington, I kept moving south after college, eventually learning all they left out at journalism school at the feet of street-smart newspaper editors in Florida and South Carolina.
In 1985, one of those editors found me presentable enough to send back to D.C., this time as correspondent for the Tampa Tribune. The job ended four years later, and I found myself in steep competition for a similar slot with the Charleston, S.C. paper. I remember pumping the Charleston editor’s hand and pleading, “Please don’t let me become a press secretary.”
The man was merciful, enabling nine more years of Washington reporting, and front row exposure to the real South, as Charleston is far deeper into Dixie than Tampa, geography be damned. As time wore on, my NY sensibilities blended with Southern convention to produce stories on intriguing topics such as public celebration of the Confederate flag, and segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond.
It was a great time until Charleston ran out of cash and shuttered its one-man D.C. bureau. Out in the cold, I - by this time a father of three ravenous, athletic, college-bound children - found warmth in a little known Federal agency called the U.S. General Services Administration. I began as a speechwriter and today head the agency’s web, new media, and graphics teams.
Though Bella is my first real fiction, some thin-skinned politicians would say the stories I wrote about them were just as fabricated. In fact, no fiction bubbled up until I earned my license to write in the Johns Hopkins Masters program in 2000. During this time, I also reentered the classroom at American University, my alma mater, and began teaching journalism classes.
My insistence on clean, tight writing did no lasting harm to the three afore-mentioned children, now taxpaying adults in the fields of public relations, web design, and engineering. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that the kids snuck secret help from their mom, Felicia Piacente, a special education administrator in the Montgomery County (Md.) Public School System.
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