Chesapeake Bay's Independent Newspaper ~ Since 1993
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Volume XVII, Issue 45 ~ November 5 - November 11, 2009

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The Story Behind the Story

Bill Burton was right: Curiosity is the story behind the story

Bill Burton’s voice lingers in my ears — though I wish more of him were still around. He’s saying Curiosity is the most important quality a writer can have. With me, Bill Burton was always right, even when he was wrong. On this proclamation, he was doubly right.

The Yellow Box Front, this week’s lead story, is the result of curiosity. For years, my curiosity has been growing about the yellow boxes that bear the Planet Aid logo. For months, I’ve been looking for a reporter who shares my curiosity — and is eager to follow it, like a hound, wherever its scent leads.

Simone Gorrindo, whose byline you’re getting used to on Bay Weekly stories, is the writer who wins Bill Burton’s posthumous seal of approval. Four others before her backed off the story.

Perhaps they got lost in the tangle of controversy that you stumble into when you go in pursuit of the story behind the Planet Aid boxes. That’s part of the story, certainly, but it’s already been written. Nor was it the part that most interested me.

As both writer and editor, I’ve always been curious about stories that are hidden in plain view. One of my early stories — sandwiched between the Great Lawrenceville Peephole Incident and Acquitted by Self-Defense — was called Picking up Sticks.

The other two had been spectacular: In the former, sisters had gone to court against an employer who’d fired them when they made a big deal about the peephole fellow workers had bored into the wall of the women’s toilet in the factory where they worked. The latter was the story of one of the first times battered wife syndrome was used as a successful defense in a murder trial.

Picking up Sticks was about how a city dealt with the consequences of a massive ice storm. I loved all three stories because, as Burton said, There are no dull subjects, just dull writers. Imagination can make any subject interesting. Look for unusual aspects and write about them. One of Robert Frost’s best poems is about a dull old grindstone.

Old clothes, Simone’s subject, could be ranked with Frost’s dull old grindstone. But she saw a great insight hidden in plain view: If you’re far-sighted, organized and persistent, there’s a fortune to be made from the detritus of our disposable culture — especially if you make it easy for people to unburden themselves.

If you, too, are fascinated with mysteries hidden out in the open, this is the story for you. You’ll not only learn what Planet Aid does with your deposits; you’ll see donated clothing in the bigger picture. Simone’s conclusion: Your used clothes are making somebody money; it’s up to you to decide who.

Curiosity drives every story in Bay Weekly. Margaret Tearman, Ben Miller, Bonnie Leftowitz: Every morning they — and every writer who thrives in our pages — wake up full of questions and asking for answers. They’ve all played in the wider world, but Chesapeake Country is just as fascinating as places bigger and farther away.

So I hope you’ll join us once more this week for the curious pleasure of reading stories featuring our times, our place, our people.

Sandra Olivetti Martin

editor and publisher


© COPYRIGHT 2009 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

from the Editor