By DAVID GREEN
Don’t let the phrase “sports writer” catch you off base, because there’s much more to author Glenn Stout than that.
True, he’s nationally know for his books and articles about sporting events, but his work—and his interests—go beyond the baseball diamond and the football field.
When Stout visits Morenci’s Stair Public Library at 7 p.m. Thursday, he expects his talk to interest a wide range of readers.
“I think the talk will be of interest to anyone interested in writing, as not all my work is sports related,” he said. “I suppose anyone who is interested in writing, particularly sports writing, and how a person becomes a writer.”
“My journey was sort of accidental,” he added, as a teaser to his talk.
Stout said he will discuss some of the stories behind the stories told in the books he’s written, along with some information about how some of his books came to be written.
For example, he will recount the oral history he recorded at the site of the World Trade Center cleanup (Nine Months at Ground Zero”), and he will talk about the process by which an idea becomes a book.
The Ohio native began a free-lance writing career in 1986 and made the decision to go full time as a writer in 1993. That wasn’t the easiest choice to make.
“Looking back now, I can't believe I did it,” he said. “It was definitely the kind of decision you make as a younger person, because I don't think I admitted to myself the possibility that I would fail.”
His decision also came as somewhat of a relief.
“At the time, I was exhausted from essentially both working full time and writing full time and I figured, ‘Well, I'll give this a try and if it doesn’t work after six months or a year, I’ll get another job.’”
He never had to look for that new job.
He’s written, ghostwritten or edited more than 80 books, representing sales of almost three million copies.
Stout continues to edit the annual “Best American Sports Writing” series—a project he got off the ground in 1991—and is the author of the “Good Sports” series for juvenile readers.
After publishing the Boston Globe bestseller “Fenway 1912,” Stout was awarded the 2012 Seymour Medal by the Society for American Baseball Research.
Stout branched off from baseball stories in a big way a few years ago when he wrote about an American teenager who became the first woman to swim the English Channel.
“I stumbled across the story of Trudy Ederle while researching another book and was surprised that I had never ever heard of her,” he said.
He filed the story away for a few years before deciding there was a book waiting to be written.
“Without her, it would have been another generation before women would have been allowed to compete in sports,” Stout said. “She’s the Jackie Robinson of women’s sports. It all starts with her.”
Stout says that he isn’t a very good swimmer, but he did spend some time in and on Lake Champlain where he lives.
“I did try to get inside her head by spending some time in the water when it was colder than comfortable, and a lot of time out by myself kayaking along in poor weather conditions, just to get and understanding of what it feels like to be out on the water, cold and wet, for six or eight hours, completely dependent on you own physical efforts. I can't imagine swimming the Channel myself, but I know my book has inspired others to do so.”
After his visit to the library Thursday, Stout will spend Friday with Morenci high school and middle school students.
He’ll start the day with Heather Walker’s AP English class, then move to the middle school to speak with fifth and sixth grade students. Seventh and eighth graders will get their chance in the afternoon.
Even during lunch Stout will be on the job. He’s going to have a meal with members of Sally Kruger’s writers group.
“I’ll be talking about my career and tying to motivate them about reading and writing by explaining that writing isn’t done by other people but by people just like themselves, and I’ll try to use examples from my own life and career to underscore that point.”
He would be delighted if students gained a greater appreciation for the written word.
“I think reading is transformative, something that can and does change your life,” he said, “no matter what you want to do in the future.”
Stout aims to write a few more books in his future—more material for readers to devour.