Sunday, November 11, 2007

A writer's best tool: listening

When I asked columnist/reporter Vin Mannix how he found Vietnam veteran Brad Smith, I knew there would be a story behind the story. He didn't disappoint.

Vin has been mulling how to share Smith’s story for months. He met the Bradenton resident on Good Friday last April, at a children’s parade in Palmetto. And, in Vin’s words: “I was immediately taken by his story-telling ability, his vivid recall and his willingness to discuss an experience that was traumatic in every aspect.”

So today, on Veterans Day, we have the honor of a window into the resilience of a Vietnam POW. Vin’s first official interview with Smith was on Memorial Day, and after two hours of coffee and listening, Vin had more than 100 inches of notes. How did he mold that into today’s story? Here’s a bit of insight into this writer:

Of all the things he told me, two things grabbed me:
One was how he overcame the hate for his captors.
The other was the brown sock and white sock he realized he was wearing before the fateful mission, his reaction, and that he still has a piece of that brown sock.


Vin knew he had his story’s lede-in, and the ending. And, he says, he simply let Brad Smith tell everything in-between.

Late last week, Vin and online editor Ed Scott captured the video here on Bradenton.com with Brad Smith. It’s a strong exclamation point to Vin's story and Grant Jefferies' photos today.

Here’s one more glimpse of Vin’s modest dedication: He thanked us for the opportunity to give this veteran’s story –- representative of so many thousands of other veterans today -- the time and space it deserves.

Joan

1 comment:

neighbor said...

just stumbled across this. what a keeper. what a tribute. thank you.