Saturday, December 26, 2009

Joe's Top 10 articles of 2009

As a free-lance writer I get to (mostly) pick and choose what I write about. The Texas film industry, literature and college football have been my specialties of late. Here are my picks of the best of what I wrote in 2009:

1. I spent a very long lunch at Threadgill's World Headquarters with Joe Lansdale for this in-depth piece in The Austin Chronicle.

2. I love the challenge of visiting a movie or television show set and conveying the experience to readers. My visit to the The Deep End set and chatting with Billy Zane for The Dallas Morning News is a case in point.

3. I turned my wife's high school homecoming into a tale a bit larger that included the young guy touted as the nation's best ball carrier (it's debatable) and a certain guy (Britt Daniel) from the band Spoon.

4. Tommy Warren used the skills he got designing prisons to create a film studio called Spiderwood out near Bastrop. He gave me a tour of the facility and of his life's journey for this Austin Chronicle article.

5. Just prior to when films are released, press people are herded one by one into a hotel room to interview the director and/or stars. I got to sit down and chat with Mike Judge about Extract and found him to be a pretty good interview and a very interesting person. The resulting article ran both in the San Antonio Express-News and The Houston Chronicle.

6. My favorite up-and-coming literary writer is Dan Chaon. I sent him a fan email after reading his short story "Big Me," so you can bet I jumped at the chance to interview him about his latest novel Await Your Reply for both The Austin Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News.

7. While I'm no longer a regular film contributor for The Austin Chronicle, I have been writing a weekly blog for them about Colt McCoy, Coach Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns football team as it aims for a nation title. In this last installment, I talked about luck and the literature of football.

8. Larry Hagman and others were inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame to open the South By Southwest Film Festival in March. I don't do a lot of short-deadline journalism, but this piece was hammered out very quickly on the spot during the festivities for The Dallas Morning News.

9. I used to advise the student newspaper at St. Edward's University and did much of the programming for the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association's statewide conference in 2004, which we co-sponsored. I invited Clarence Swensen, one of the last surviving Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz, to speak to students as part of the on-site feature-writing contest. He and his wife Myrna were great people and I even got a peek inside their Pflugerville home. Clarence died this year and I wrote a short piece honoring him in The Austin Chronicle.

10. I cut my teeth as a beat reporter covering mainly politics. I was known for being thorough and having a bit of a killer instinct about my various beats. I continue that as a Texas film industry columnist, a job that ended in July for The Austin Chronicle when they made some major cuts due to the tough economic times. I continue as the Shot in Texas film columnist for The Dallas Morning News. In the Morning News I broke the news both that The Deep End would shoot in North Texas and that the Coen brothers version of True Grit would film in Central Texas. Oh, and I was right there with the media pack with news of ABC's series Jack and Dan being set in and filming in Dallas. Here's the first scoop on True Grit.

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