Sunday, May 20, 2007

Word Pictures of People: The Art of the Profile

Bill Minutaglio gave a comedic presentation on his experiences conducting profile interviews. He is a national, award-winning journalist and has been an author for 28 years. He has written for several newspapers including the New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. He is the author of several books including, City on Fire: The Forgotten Disaster that Devastated a Town and Ignited a Landmarked Legal Battle, which I look forward to reading. Minutaglio said that this book was one that he was most proud of. It tells the story of the Texas City explosion in 1947, which killed an estimated 25 percent of the town’s population of 16,000 people.

“Writing stories on a deadline is difficult,” said Minutaglio. “The best profiles are written with the luxury of time.”

Minutaglio told an experience of when he set out to interview Allen Ginsberg, an American Beat poet. He is best known for “Howl” (1956), a long poem about the self-destruction of his friends in the Beat Generation, a group of young American writers in the 1950s. He wrote about destructive forces, such as materialism and conformity.

Minutaglio knocked on Ginsberg’s door at Rice University. A grumpy gurgle came from inside. Minutaglio began to ponder whether or not to leave, but Ginsberg’s door opened, with crazy hair, glasses crooked and sweating.

Ginsberg began to apologize for his appearance and tardiness to the door, but that he had just passed some kidney stones. Minutaglio found himself in shock, but soon realized that it was the perfect ice-breaker to begin his interview.

Minutaglio also shared his experience on the Today Show. He was invited to discuss his book, The First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty.

As he waited in the green room, which Minutaglio said actually had green carpet, he found himself being stared at by a man across from him. After a few moments of sharing sliced carrots, he realized that he was John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted. Minutaglio said he felt compelled to tell Walsh, that to his knowledge, he was not wanted for anything.

He finished his session with a piece of advice on profile writing.

“Drive the profile with intimate detail,” said Minutaglio.

For a more in depth look at Bill Minutaglio and his writing, visit his website here.

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