Retirement doesn't erase the Write Stuff
RINDGE -- Eric Poor says he knows it's a cliché: Retired reporter authors book.
"But," he adds, "it's a really neat experience."
When the longtime staff member at the Peterborough-based Monadnock Ledger-Transcript retired in 2008, he set out to become the type of writer he'd always dreamed of being. But instead of publishing a long-planned suspense novel, he wound up writing about his 17 years as a beat reporter covering his hometown of Jaffrey and nearby Rindge.
"Working at the Word Factory: The Curious Life of a Small-Town Newspaper Journalist" was published by Hobblebush Books earlier this year.
"I always had it in the back of my mind I would like to be a writer, but I never got around to it; I was too busy making a living," Poor said of his belated career transition.
Before becoming a reporter, Poor had worked at a feed store, "hustling 100-pound sacks of grain." He had tried his hand as a commercial fisherman, worked a forklift, managed property and served as a junior executive at an electronics company. After all that - and before his long foray into journalism - came a decade-long stint as a bartender.
He says it was a combination of the "endless variety of people" and the free beer that kept him tending bar, and he admits he might still be there today if the bar hadn't burned down.
It was his passion for outdoor sports, he said, that led him into newspapers. Poor answered an ad for a columnist in the Ledger-Transcript, and the rest was history - or, in this case, his story.
When he was first offered the column at the Ledger, he said, he was thrilled, but he needed some tools of the trade. "So I bought a second-hand, yard-sale typewriter for $2," he said.
The Ledger-Transcript liked his work enough to make him a full-time reporter a few years later, but that required some on-the-job training.
"I blundered my way into it, and I blundered my way through it," he said of his experience as a novice reporter.
Along the way, he became passionate about photography, eventually purchasing his own digital camera when access to the staff camera shared among reporters and sales people became difficult. It all paid off as he wound up winning numerous journalism and photography awards, including "columnist of the year" recognition from the New Hampshire Press Association.
He also became prolific, writing an estimated 300,000 words a year.
"When you think about it, that's three 100,000-word novels a year," he said.
Upon retirement, however, he discovered that crafting works of fiction is more time-consuming than cranking out deadline-driven news stories. He persevered, though, and five years after leaving the Ledger-Transcript, he has completed his first novel, the opening tome in a planned three-part suspense series. He's written a draft of Part 2 and outlined the third book.
Set in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire, the first book in his series, "Beyond Bethlehem," tells the story of an aging outlaw and artist who seeks vengeance for a friend's death.
Poor has a literary agent but as yet no publisher for the series.
It was a fellow member of the Monadnock Writers Group, Rodger Martin, who encouraged him to write more of his recollections of being a reporter for a small, community newspaper, Poor said. Martin, who lectures at Keene State College, wanted to use such a book for a journalism course he teaches, so he brought the idea and some of Poor's writing to Hobblebush Books.
The Brookline-based publisher got behind the idea, believing there would be significant community interest, and asked Poor to write what became "Working at the Word Factory."
The book is full of anecdotes and insights into the community and what it's like to work for a small newspaper, a job Poor grew to love despite the small paychecks and unpredictable hours.
"I came to love it," he said. "It was just an endless stream of really interesting people I was really into."
After years of listening to the scanner and rushing to the scene of accidents and fires, Poor continues to do so, but now as the Rindge Fire and Rescue Department's official photographer, public information officer and recently certified EMT.
He became an EMT after he realized he might be the first to arrive at a scene where someone might need immediate medical care, he said.
"Working at the Word Factory" can be purchased at www.hobblebush.com. You can read samples of Poor's writing, including excerpts of his novel, "Beyond Bethlehem," at www.ericpoor.com. He also has several upcoming readings scheduled, including Aug. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Nelson Town Library and Aug. 10 at 11 a.m. at the Toadstool Bookshop in Keene.
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