In our opinion, it's time for a book
October 9th, 2020
(published in The Daily Memphian)
“Dan’s background is starkly different from mine. He’s a white guy from the city. I’m a black guy from the farm. But we have several things in common, the most significant being our love for Memphis – its rich history, colorfulness and rhythm.”
Otis Sanford said that in his introduction to a new book, and, like most things Otis says, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m going to share some of my introduction to that book with you today.
The book, a collection of his columns and mine, is called “In A Colorful Place,” and it will be published next month. Good stories are worth retelling and we’ve picked some we think are good enough to share again with you. As always, you’ll be the judge.
The process of looking back at my columns has caused me to look back even further, back to when I began to write. And why. And how that’s different and the same now.
I’ve made a living doing it right here, the place I love, and you have my gratitude. You’ve made that possible because whether you know it or not, you’ve been reading me in one form or another since well back in the 20th century when the Earth was cooling and people wrote with typewriters.
For the first 40 or so years of my career – God, I’m tired – I wrote in somebody else’s voice. I spoke for clients.
The first of those voices was a sausage maker in Knoxville, Tennessee. Their approach on radio had become stale, or more appropriately for sausage, past its sell date. They conducted a contest for new scripts, threw out a few product points they wanted to make, and offered fifty bucks to the winner.
I was a junior in college on my fourth major – journalism – preceded by architecture, art and English. College football fan, all-night bridge games, keg tapping, and chili cheese dogs were minors. While obviously taking advantage of the concept of university and attending classes in virtually every building on the property, I just as obviously lacked purpose.
And fifty bucks was a fortune in 1969, so, what the hell, I took a shot at sausage.
I won. In fact, they took a couple of my scripts and I got to voice a couple of parts. And I got paid for this.
I had a blast. And I had my final major – advertising – and a lasting career. I was and have been ever since an advertising copywriter, what my two older writer brothers would call an illegitimate writer.
And I’ve been having a blast ever since.
Reducing complicated products and services to the simplest expressions of what they did and what they meant to people. Exploring human nature, figuring out human motivation, getting inside heads and making them release money. Inspiring action. Causing change. Working on some of the biggest, most meaningful projects and initiatives in the city – including the founding and branding of The Daily Memphian. Working with wonderfully creative, gifted people in the process. Competing with people like that.
While I’ve owned advertising agencies, and owned all the headaches and heartaches ownership brings, the times I sat first in front of a typewriter and later a screen and got it exactly right were worth the hundreds of times, probably thousands of times, I didn’t get it right.
Those are the moments I write for, then and now.
More than a decade ago, I started writing in my voice.
When you work for lots of people, representing their interests, and lots of people work for you, and you are responsible for them, your voice can threaten all of that. Now, it’s just me and the dogs, and they love everything I write.
Recently, a reader referred to me as “leftist trash.” And he wasn’t through. After two or three other readers made comments, he was back, “Dan, no easy way to say this, but you’re an idiot.”
Tell me I can’t move people.
My columns offer no product features or benefits. They are drawn from the rich and raw natural ingredients of this city, the stuff of a lifetime here and the perspective it brings. They are comprised entirely of the truth as I see it. That’s the promise I make to my readers now, and all I ask is that they read and think.
And I’m still having a blast. Come on, I started with sausage and now I’m doing a book with Otis Sanford.
We hope you’ll take a look. We know you’ll decide for yourself if we got it right.
I’m a Memphian, and so is Otis Sanford. We’ve had a blast sharing what that means with you.
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