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Interview with Teresa McLamb, February 20, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Teresa McLamb, February 20, 2008
February 20, 2008
Teresa McLamb discusses her career in journalism and public relations, including her educational background and details about her journalistic interests.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  McLamb, Teresa Interviewer:  Diesenhaus, Doug Date of Interview:  2/20/2008 Series:  SENC Writers Length  60 minutes


Diesenhaus: Okay, to start off, I'm Doug Diesenhaus and today February 20th, 2008, I'll be interviewing Teresa McLamb for the Randall Library Oral History Project on creative writers. And usually the place that I start is to ask people how they got their start in writing, how they've come to this life.

McLamb: (laughs) That's a long trip. I'm not sure if my start is strange or if it's the way other people do, but I actually had a teacher in high school tell me that I should major in journalism. And oddly enough, it was because of a creative piece that I wrote rather than a journalistic piece. And I just-- I started pursuing it from there, worked for the local newspaper when I was in high school. And the high school newspaper was a little bit of a joke, but there was a weekly paper in town, I wrote for them and went to Chapel Hill and majored in journalism. And wound up working in employed communications rather than for a newspaper or a magazine, branched out from there to PR which used all the skills I had learned in writing. And then later came to UNCW and got a Master's in English, and I've used it in everything I've done, even though I've never worked full-time as a writer.

Diesenhaus: That first piece that you mentioned that was creative that the teacher was responding to it, was there something about it that made that teacher think that journalism could be a good idea for you?

McLamb: I'm not sure. It was actually to be a brief biography and I don't know what about that made her think that journalism would be the right role, because journalism isn't that creative, you know, it's fact to fact to fact to fact.

Diesenhaus: Was writing or reading an important part of your childhood for that point?

McLamb: Yeah it was. A friend and I used to race to see who could read the latest Nancy Drew novel. I used to try to write them and I'd give up after five minutes, you know, I never-- and I still don't understand how people write novels. But, yeah, it was important.

Diesenhaus: Well, I know some of what you do now is a lot of freelance work. What is that work like, and do you enjoy the freelance lifestyle? You talked about you never worked full-time in writing, does that leave you in a hustled position all the time?

McLamb: Yes and no, but-- the reason I never worked full-time is writing is because I either was raising kids, which I wanted to be hands-on, my daughter's been to every printing company in town by the time she was four-years old, or I was working another full-time job and doing that on the side. I guess part of that reason was that there are family businesses that I needed to be involved in. What it does mean like right now, I'm working full-time, like a-- I mean a really intense full-time job and I'm freelancing on the side, so I have really little free time. But what it does do is allow me to stay in touch with people who I need to talk to because of the full-time business, but don't-- from a different angle.

Diesenhaus: So they overlap.

McLamb: They overlap yes, and that's been a really good thing all along, is that the writing skills have very frequently overlapped with other things that I was doing.

Diesenhaus: How do you manage the different angles of approaching them? Do you say, "I'm coming at you from this position or from an article position?"

McLamb: Yeah, yeah, I mean when I call someone I tell them exactly why I'm calling first.

Diesenhaus: And do they take on different roles as well?

McLamb: Some of them do, yeah.

Diesenhaus: Was there a time when the full-time was not a position and you were much more heavy into the freelance side?

McLamb: Yeah, yeah, I mean, there have been times-- it's been very cyclical, but yeah, there have been times that I did much more freelance work. And much more PR. I kind of evolved into the PR and really liked that. It does allow a creative side to come in, but it still uses all of the, you know, who, what, when, where, why, that is the basis of journalism.

Diesenhaus: How does it-what are the parts where the creative side can come out of the PR?

McLamb: Oh gosh, yeah, how do I present this so that people will enjoy it, people will see that they have a need for it, or that they may want to participate or they may want to get their neighbor and go to this. Or, you know, the ultimate-- and I don't know how to tell this story quickly, but, I was responsible for the PR for the opening day of the North Carolina Olympic festival torch run several years ago, which, it started in Wilmington, ran through the state up to Raleigh. And we created an event that encompassed almost every Olympic event and every segment of the population. And I got to do all the PR for that, meeting with all these different people, sending out releases, bringing in reporters. It was just-- it was one of the coolest things I've ever done.

Diesenhaus: And so, are there ways in which that the PR work is different from non-PR work, or do they actually come fairly close at times, the type of writing?

McLamb: Yeah, the type of writing is very similar, because what I'm trying to do, it-- when I do a news release is to present to the journalist at the newspaper, or wherever they happen to be, TV station, the information they absolutely have to have in order to get them interested so that they report it. You know, so I'm basically writing it as if I were the reporter. Because they need all that information, if they want to call me and get some additional, that's super. But I give them everything that they could possibly need.

Diesenhaus: Does that help when you're pitching stories, that you have kind of that sense of both sides of it?

McLamb: Yeah, yeah it does, absolutely.

Diesenhaus: And, in terms of the role of freelance on the side of the full-time job, or the heavier freelance lifestyle, is there one of them that you prefer?

McLamb: Oh, I'd much prefer to be able to freelance full-time.

Diesenhaus: Why is that?

McLamb: It's more freedom in it. In working full-time, it doesn't allow really being able to put in that extra effort that usually is required to get the big bucks stories.

Diesenhaus: So mostly it's a time issue isn't it?

McLamb: It's a big time issue. Like right now, my primary client, as far as freelance, is a local publication that's been publishing once a month, now they're publishing twice a month. I know what I have to do all the time for them, I have no pitch involved. If something oddball comes up I'll call the editor really quick and say, "Do you want this or do you want somebody else to do it?" Other than that I just do it as I have time.

Diesenhaus: In terms of your freelance career, was there a big break? Was there one article or one sort of moment or period of time where it felt like things were coming together?

McLamb: First one I sold. (laughs)

Diesenhaus: First one you sold. Why was that? What was it about?

McLamb: Gosh I don't remember what it was about, I really don't. I remember getting the check for it. (laughs)

Diesenhaus: Was that the moment?

McLamb: That was the moment, yes. Like, Oh my God, I can really do this, I can make a living doing this.

Diesenhaus: Looking over some of your work, it looks like a lot of it relates to the Carolinas, Carolinas region. Do you feel that where you live affects your work? How does it feel to interact with that region that you're a part of?

McLamb: I think it absolutely affects my work, but it's also because I love where I live, it's fun to tell other people about it. And a lot of the really early work I did was for publications that were promoting the area.

Diesenhaus: And talking about how you love to tell people about it, I know that you probably do a lot of interviews, and so you are sort of asking people, giving people the opportunity to talk about where they live. Do you get something out of that, too, giving people the chance to talk?

McLamb: Oh, oh yeah. And I learn things all the time. That's probably the most fun is that if I don't know about something, hey let's write an article it. That gives me the excuse and the time to go learn about it. I mean I've done things on acupuncture, on tooth veneering, on 401(k)s, on 1031 exchanges, you know, just off the wall stuff that I probably-- some of it I really don't need to know about it, some of it I can benefit from. The other thing is, I've learned a lot about people who have moved into this area, it's amazing how many people visit here one time, fall in love with it, go home shut down everything and move here. And then they start some cool business, which is why we have this great community that we live in. And I've met a lot of those people.

Diesenhaus: Do you think that, taking a broad swath of your work, is it more things that have been in the area a long time, or is it more and more of this newer people coming in, starting up new kinds of things.

McLamb: It's both. It's both. And a lot of the reason that they are moving here is because of the stuff that's been here for a long time. I mean, they love the beach, they love downtown, they love the history, and just, you know, being able to go to work in your shorts if you want to. You know, stuff like that draws people in here. And I mean, you know, there are-- I was just talking to somebody yesterday who was telling me about an attorney they use, who lives all year long in a Hawaiian shirt, and a pair of shorts and he retired here from Boston and is still practicing law because he wants that lifestyle. And those people are great stories.

Diesenhaus: Have you? Your history-were you born and raised in the area?

McLamb: In North Carolina yeah, in Brunswick county.

Diesenhaus: And was there a time when you were outside of that region, or have you mostly really lived here?

McLamb: I've lived here the whole time except when I was in school in Chapel Hill. I've traveled a lot and, you know, there are other places where I think it'd be great to go live for six months, or a year, maybe even two years, but I like it here.

Diesenhaus: Well, I know that you do do a lot of travel writing. Have your own travel inform-when you do your travel are you writing about it as well, or has that kind of formed how you might approach assignments for a magazine?

McLamb: Both, when I know I'm going somewhere I will attempt to sell it. I mean, you know, there's the business side of it, because if I sell the piece, then it's a tax deduction. The other side of it is, honestly I get more out of the travel if I'm there with a purpose, rather than just lounging on the beach or wandering around their downtown or whatever. Because, man, you're on vacation you get lazy, but if I go with a notebook and I'm taking notes-- you know, even if they'll wind up never publishing it, you know, I have a notebook full of things from Greece that I never did publish but, I paid attention.

Diesenhaus: That's a different idea of travel. Some people might be interested in the lazy side of it, but you're saying that kind of spark s part of the travel for you is the curiosity?

McLamb: Yeah, yeah it does, absolutely. I mean, even-- gosh I like Canyon Ranch the resort in Arizona, and I've published three or four pieces based on interviews I did while I was there. It didn't take a whole lot of time out of your day, you learned something, you learned the history of what you're doing and, you know, it still allows you to keep up work, that-- I just see them being tied together.

Diesenhaus: Does it take away from a type of relaxation or is it sort of combined for you.

McLamb: It normally doesn't take away from it. I have had one trip where it did because I happened to have other pieces that were due while I was there. And so I spent most of one day on the phone and on the computer finishing up those two pieces. But if you're spending an hour or two hours interviewing somebody out of an entire week, that's not too bad.

Diesenhaus: What's your, what are some of your methods for interviewing? Are you recording or are you taking notes by hand?

McLamb: I have recorded. If I'm traveling it's very cumbersome to do that, and I never have been able to figure out how to do a digital recorder, I can't get them to playback. I have done a lot of, you know, just the small cassette recording. If at all possible I will use a laptop, because I can keyboard probably ten times faster than I can write. That's my preference. In fact, when I'm working at home I do almost everything by telephone.

Diesenhaus: And you're typing, too?

McLamb: Just as hard as I can go.

Diesenhaus: And when you're talking with someone face to face, how does the computer does it, just as a recorder might, make them ever feel uncomfortable?

McLamb: I don't think so not-- I really haven't had any problem with it so far. I have had technical problems where when I was using a recorder, something would go wrong with the recorder. And, you know, if I'm not taking notes or something in addition to that then I'll lose it. Then that's kind-- that's a problem.

Diesenhaus: When you're either notes from the recorder when you have done it, or from the keyboard, how are you, kind of, incorporating that material, is it mostly kind of quote based information, are you also saying...?

McLamb: Background and quotes, you know, if I'm asking somebody to explain how something works, you know, I won't necessarily quote their explanation but it's still, you know, I need that information. But it does allow me to get the quotes accurate.

Diesenhaus: And then when you come back from a trip and you have this material, what is your process for getting started on whatever assignment or article you have? Do you review everything, or do you cut and paste the material into it?

McLamb: If there's anything to transcribe I'll do that first. In fact, if there's anyway possible, I'll do it before I even come home, just because, you know, if I've got an error in something I want to have enough memory of it to correct it right then. But yeah, I mean, I will review everything before I start trying to write, and then it just comes.

Diesenhaus: And I'm curious also about research. You talked about learning new things. Do you feel that you're really constantly learning new things, or sometimes introduced to something that you've pursued in your own life?

McLamb: Yeah, I can give you an example. I went on a fitness cruise where they did Tai Chi. I'd never done it before, I'd seen it, but I did it every day, every time they had it offered. I got all the contact information on the teacher, came home and practiced it for about a week before I started going away. I wound up writing an article on it, incorporating that instructor and another master instructor that I had met somewhere else and had the chance to interview. And I still try to practice it even though it's very difficult for me to do it on my own. But I learned the theories behind it and, you know, just the marvelous history of it, so it makes sense rather than just watching somebody and wondering why they're doing the movements the way they're doing it.

Diesenhaus: Has there been other articles about Tai Chi or things that are slightly related that have kind of come out of your personal interests in it?

McLamb: Yeah, acupuncture. I had acupuncture treatments for about two years. Wow, I'm sure that-- bunch of other stuff, but that's the latest one I could think of.

Diesenhaus: Those both fit in...

McLamb: Yeah, they're in Western medicine, right.

Diesenhaus: Outside the Western model, are there others like that or are you kind of drawn to that?

McLamb: Yeah, I'm really interested in it. I've started reading about Eastern religions and just alternative health, period.

Diesenhaus: I wanted to ask either for the travel writing or business and the health side, are you kind of trying to make narratives out of some of the conversations you might have with people? That gets me wondering, how do you tell the story that you're trying to tell? Is it like a story arc of assuming that someone wants to go on a trip? How do you bring it to the reader? I guess-

McLamb: Oh okay. That's going to depend on the publication. If I have a publication where they're open to first person I will tell it in that method. One that I've been writing for regularly does not like first person, and so I have to do it more as a, you know, onlooker, and maybe tell it from the perspective of the people who are being interviewed.

Diesenhaus: Do you prefer one of those two?

McLamb: Not really.

Diesenhaus: Why do you think that one publication doesn't like the first person?

McLamb: I don't know, I mean, I haven't asked her why. It's just their style is not to do anything in first person, so. There are publications that are like that, and then there are some like, gosh, National Geographic and Smithsonian are almost all first person, so, who knows.

Diesenhaus: Especially for some of the things you've mentioned like acupuncture and Tai Chi where you might have had the experience but then there might be elements that might still be missing, is there then a research element that you need to track down, and do you like that?

McLamb: Yeah, I get too bogged down in it though. Especially with internet research being available, I've forgotten now which story it was, but it was about 2,000 words and before I even started writing I had 30-some pages of internet notes. (laughs) I was like, "Okay, you can't do this again. That's a little much."

Diesenhaus: And how do you, in that situation or others, how did you move away from that abundance?

McLamb: Oh gosh, you have to disown it, just start going through and being savage with cutting materials like, "Okay this seemed really interesting the first time I saw it, but it's not that interesting now that I have all this other...." And that'll get rid of a page or two at the time very easily.

Diesenhaus: In terms of your assignments, are sort of related to those other questions coming up with the ideas or are they coming to you as assignments from an editor?

McLamb: It's both.

Diesenhaus: Do you prefer either one?

McLamb: I much prefer that they assign it.

Diesenhaus: Why is that?

McLamb: It's just easier. (laughs) It's just that's all it is, it's just easier. Because I'm working, I just-- I mean I do think of things and I send them out, but it's much easier because I don't have that much time to have somebody just send me an email and say, "I want this done, do you want to do it?"

Diesenhaus: When they're doing that in that way, are they also giving you certain contours of what they're looking for?

McLamb: A little bit, I mean, you know, the important thing how long and how-- what they're going to pay. And then sometimes they will say, "I really want you to interview this person." Sometimes it will be, "Here are a couple of Web sites that have a lot of information." And it's just-- normally it's not real strict parameters.

Diesenhaus: When you are not full-time, is there any change that there might be things that you want to work on, that you enjoy pursuing that over the assignments, or is it similar?

McLamb: It's always a pain to have to go out and get the assignment, because you have to do a lot of the research ahead of time and convince them that they really want it in their publication. So, it's much easier to have them assign it. But you know, if I'm not working full-time then I've got more energy to put into convincing them.

Diesenhaus: Is there any subject, or a series of subjects that you want to work more with, or that you like to hunt down when you have a chance?

McLamb: I kind of bounce all over the place with that. I have several pages of ideas, plus two or three folders that I haven't even looked at in a long time with ideas in them. So yeah, I mean, its-- if I get into the mode of having more time I'll go back through those folders and through the pages. The last list I made actually had the article, who would be interview, which magazine it would be best for, so, eventually I'll get back to that.

Diesenhaus: You talked about working with the internet and how that can lead to too much information. Can it also-what's your relationship with it, in terms of research or does it sometimes bring you some of those ideas that you've listed?

McLamb: Yeah, yeah, that's one of the things that happens with research, is I'll start out at A and wind up at double D over here somewhere, because so many things bounce off and then it's all the sudden like, "Wow this is interesting." The downside of it is there's a lot of incorrect information on the internet, so it's really easy to get mislead. It requires a lot of judgment as well as using some other resource so that you can double check what you're seeing on the internet.

Diesenhaus: Well, my sense is that the actual writing process has also become very much electronically oriented, and it sounds like that might be the case for you, how does that work out for you? Are you having face-to-face contact with editors?

McLamb: Not regularly, no. I mean I-- one of them I've been writing for that I've never met. I do, I feel everybody else I'm writing for I've at least met, one of them I see fairly regularly, like every six months if that's regular. But, yeah, I mean if-- now actually a lot of the writing that I've done has been for the internet, like somebody's Web site. And so those types of people normally, yes, I will have long, at the table conversations with them about what they're looking for, and what's vital that they get across in their Web site and whatever news release they're doing or something, so, that's a little different. But, I'm very, very tied to the computer.

Diesenhaus: When you're writing for a Web site or for something that's going to be primarily only online, is that different in some way than print, or do you approach it differently?

McLamb: My initial approach to it is exactly the same, but what I have found, and my belief is that most people in the kinds of writing that I've done for it really don't want a lot of text. They want very concise information. And so have to be the super journalist and get it just down to the bare facts, which a lot of people who are hiring me to do these things don't understand. Somebody doesn't want to sit and read on their Web site for 20 minutes. But, yeah, I mean, the first approach is the same.

Diesenhaus: Well, then, in terms of your relationships with editors, whether they're personal or electronic, I wonder how the editing process works. Are they sending you comments or revisions in the manuscript or letters about what they might see differently?

McLamb: For the most part if there are edits done, they do it, they publish it. I don't know until it's published. There are times when I will get something back, for example, in the publication that doesn't like first person work. I got something back that said, "This is too personal. Impersonalize it." And so, you know, she just left it up to me to determine how I was going to do that. I got an email this week saying I needed to supply a little more material in a piece that I'd done, and it was just up to me to do it.

Diesenhaus: Do you like that?

McLamb: Yeah, well I mean, yeah. If they had some major problems and they felt like they needed to write all over it and send it back to me that's fine. It's just I haven't run into that. But then, yeah, I've been doing it for 30 years too, so I would expect to be submitting a different quality of work than somebody who's been doing it for two or three years.

Diesenhaus: So there is less editing in the work that you're doing. You know where some of the problems may be. Going back to time and time management, you mentioned that you had three children.

McLamb: Two.

Diesenhaus: Two, I'm sorry.

McLamb: Two, they're actually grown.

Diesenhaus: First of all, apology for the number, even when they're grown there are always other types of obligations in life, social obligations and family. How do you also incorporate that into you time management, especially with a full-time job?

McLamb: Right now I just don't have a life. I mean, that's kind of what it amounts to. My kids, like I said, are grown but they're very active. One of them is out here. The other one is starting his own business and we've been on the phone almost constantly the last two weeks getting all the legal stuff and, you know, doing the PR for him. All those things that have to happen.

Diesenhaus: Is that paid work?

McLamb: Oh no, yeah, sure. I just do it so that it fits in, but I don't do a whole lot outside. I mean like tonight I'm actually going out with my daughter. When I leave here, I'll pick her up, we are going out. Most times when I leave the full-time job, I go home, I work on whatever I have coming up due, and that's about it.

Diesenhaus: Do you have other relationships or socialize with other writers or PR people? And do bounce you ideas or your work off of other people? Or is it--?

McLamb: I have, not right now. But yes, over the course of my career definitely. And some of my stronger friendships have been with people in the field, partly because-- I would meet them because being in the field with them. We would work on projects together. So yeah, especially if I'm doing one role and somebody else is doing another role in the same project. And it's fabulous to have another writer to say well, you know, should we do it this way or should we do it that way.

Diesenhaus: I wanted to look a little bit at your education. As you've mentioned you got your BA in Journalism at Chapel Hill and then you got your MA in English at UNCW. I wonder, from that, sort of the question, do you feel that writing can be taught? Do you have any thoughts on that either from the journalistic side or the English elements of it?

McLamb: From the journalistic side, absolutely. I think it can be because it's, I don't want to say it's mathematical, but it's very linear. There certainly would be people who would be much better at it than other people. But it is a very clear process, and I've taught writing workshops where I had to break it down for them, and explaining you do this and then you do this, and then you do this. And I know in my head I have done it so much that all those things run together for me, but if I really think about it I am going through those processes or those steps of the process. Creative writing and fiction, it can't teach me. I mean I think you can teach people-- I think you can help them to improve their skills. And I certainly have friends from grad school who have done wonderful work. My study partner for the thesis on the oral exam just published her first novel. And I have a really good friend, in fact, she used to be my acupuncturist who is working on the revisions for her novel which came out of her thesis here. So having been in those classes where we critiqued each other I think, yeah, it is possible to greatly improve from having the knowledge of whoever the professor is because that professor probably is a really good writer, and then having the input of all those people around you who have so many different ideas, and writing styles and approaches. But if you just don't have the core I'm not sure you can be taught that. If I can figure out how to write my dreams, yeah, I mean I could be a great fantasy novelist, but I haven't figured out how to do it yet.

Diesenhaus: I did have a chance to take a look at your thesis which involves poetry, fiction and non-fiction. And I wonder, are you still, somewhat related to what you were just saying, pursuing some of those type of writings or have you shifted away from that?

McLamb: I've written one poem since I got out of grad school and I was really upset about something so I just wrote it. It's actually decent but it's very short. Helped me get - it was catharsis. As far as the-- no I haven't even tried the fiction again.

Diesenhaus: Does it, is it something that appeals to you in the future?

McLamb: Not really. I stink at it, and I know I do. And there are so many things in non-fiction that I know I can write about and really enjoy. If I were to have the chance to do it full-time I would probably try to focus on travel because I do travel a lot and that just would be the thing that made sense, and I would love it.

Diesenhaus: You know that you are good at the writing that you do and you are superlatively capable of it. What is different about them? You talk about how someone can be taught it or learn it, but someone might thing they are closely related. Where do you think the separation is?

McLamb: I don't thing they are closely related at all and I'm not exactly sure where the separation is. With journalism the story is in front of you. I mean, there are some missing elements yeah, but the story is in front of you. With creating writing, with fiction, there is no story. I mean, you might have, you know, an idea for some character or a room or whatever. But then you have to create that entire world. The creating the world thing is what I'm not good at. I can take the world that exists and tell you about it. And in my thesis that's really what I had to do was to take life experiences or things that were so closely related to life experiences and just pretend that they were fiction.

Diesenhaus: You mentioned that you have done some teaching. What exactly were you teaching? Is it something you would like to do more of?

McLamb: It was in business and government, grammar. You got these brilliant chemical engineers who can do wonderful things but they can't write a sentence. I did it for the city of Wilmington, for CP&L, for GE, any number of others. And I created the workshops for the grammar and this is how you put a sentence together, and this is how you make it into a paragraph. And then also did some really intensive supervisory communication skills, role playing kinds of things.

Diesenhaus: That's a fairly focused type of classroom, but did you like the classroom experience?

McLamb: Yeah, it was fun to do because it was something different and it paid well. I don't think I'd want to do it full-time.

Diesenhaus: Yeah. Before you came in you mentioned a project someone else had maybe pitched to you. You don't have to talk about the specifics about it, but I wonder if the idea of commissions, or being assigned to write a whole book, Has that come up in your life?

McLamb: I've done-- sort of. I wrote a history of a public authority here, which was never published because the politics were not right for it. But I was paid to do it. And it was very interesting because I did find a lot of people who had, you know, living memories of the beginning of it and all the little nitty gritty things that happened. And then I went through all of the meeting records and the public records. But yeah, I mean I've done a number of things like that.

Diesenhaus: Was there any changes you had to make in order to make it into the book-length size, from a magazine article to something so much larger?

McLamb: No, not really because there's just a wealth of material, honestly, with this project that we were talking about. The idea is to try to kind of preserve someone's personality as well as some of the experiences that she had. I don't know how that is going to go, but it certainly will be an interesting project.

Diesenhaus: You mentioned the politics didn't work out. In the commissioned projects does that kind of editorial voice or editorial restriction become larger, more important maybe because it is so geared towards whatever it is they want?

McLamb: I'm sure it probably does. In that case, I mean, I did the work, I presented it to them, they paid me as I invoiced them. I didn't even know they weren't going to use it for months later. They never told me there weren't going to. And I still don't know exactly what the problem was but there was-- either somebody got too much credit or somebody didn't get enough or something. And rather than them being man enough or men enough to come back and say, you know, we have an issue with this, they just hit it. But the Wilmington Public Library does have copies of it which I did not give them.

Diesenhaus: I want to talk a little bit more about your process or the way that you go about actually doing the writing. Maybe a good place to start is your favorite and least favorite parts of it. We have talked about parts, but is there something you prefer over others?

McLamb: I don't know. When I was in college I had to always get the ending of anything that I was going to write, which is absolutely backwards in journalism, but anyway that's just the way it worked. And once I knew what the ending was it was-- I just whipped it out. Today I have to get that first sentence, maybe the second sentence. After that it's just a very logical sequence of facts because, you know, again it's all journalism as opposed to being creative. If it were a creative process it would probably be much different. I will sometimes realize when I've finished that I've left out something and then trying to kind of weasel it in to where does it fit. Because it is important and it needs to be in there but it didn't work in the first flow, is sometimes a problem.

Diesenhaus: Would you say then that it comes easy to you, or after the first or second sentence maybe takes more time, but after that it becomes easier?

McLamb: It is pretty easy, but again I have been doing it for a long, long time.

Diesenhaus: In addition to growth or experience over time, has there been other things that you have learned or problems that you have figured out or solved over time?

McLamb: You mean besides the writing?

Diesenhaus: I guess, I'm thinking-are there various tricks that you've come up with to get over obstacles that might have come up, or things that you did in the beginning that now you think, "Why did I ever do it that way?"

McLamb: Yeah, you know, probably the only thing is just making sure before I call somebody for an interview that I do know a little about what I'm calling them about. I normally don't just call somebody cold and say, you know, I heard so and so can you tell me about it, unless it's somebody that I've worked with a lot. So, you know, do some basic research. And honestly, a lot of the writing that I'm doing right now is real estate, residential and commercial. But it's basically the same questions, and so just having those questions in front of me so that I don't leave out something critical. Because the other person will go off on a tangent somewhere, and they'll tell me something great, and then I wont remember to go back to the next question.

Diesenhaus: When you have an assignment due are there any kind of rituals or habits that you do to get going? Is there a special way that you need your workspace to be, to be productive?

McLamb: Not really. Because late in the afternoon I'll have a glass of wine, but other than that, yeah. I know some people can't write without music, some people have to have absolute quiet. I normally will wind up writing with it very quiet, but if the radio's on wide open to Z107, that's fine too, you know.

Diesenhaus: Do you have a specific place that you write?

McLamb: The computer, yeah.

Diesenhaus: Do you have a desk or is it more casual?

McLamb: No, I have a home office. It's a desk with a desk top and, you know, the file drawers and usually it has a stack of paper that thick in front of it. That does drive me crazy. Sometimes I will have to sometimes go through everything that's on the desk and deal with it, not just pick it up and move it. Because most of that is going to relate to something that I have to write about quick-- shortly. There might also be a few other little things in there. But no rituals, no lucky charms, no favorite pencil or any of that nutty kind of stuff that some people have to have.

Diesenhaus: I think I probably know the answer to this, I was also wondering about times of day. Is it more productive in the morning or at the night?

McLamb: It's all over the place just because of the way I work. What will happen sometimes is I will wake up with the first sentence and I'll go straight and do whatever that piece is. That will also happen-- I've been fortunate a lot of the last year to be able to take the ferry home, that's a nice quiet thirty minute ride. And a lot of times during that ride I'll get the first sentence or maybe even the whole thing. And there have been times when I have sat there and write it out by hand, but that's rare because I don't like to do it by hand.

Diesenhaus: It sounds like you are so computer-focused. Is the ability to cut and paste and move stuff around something that is a huge part of writing? I know that there might be different types who lay it out there in the general order that they have in mind and others it's rearranging.

McLamb: Oh, I move it all over the place, yeah. And I will normally not go through more than three drafts regardless of how complicated or long it is, because I will cut and paste and drag all over the place as I'm doing it.

Diesenhaus: I just have a few more questions. Is there one piece or a series of pieces that are your most memorable, that you remember as being particularly fun?

McLamb: I'm not sure exactly, but in travel one of the things that I was able to do was to write about a cruise that I took my daughter and three of her friends on for spring break. That was really fun because I wrote about what we did and did a lot of the photography. Unfortunately they had to cut about three-quarters of it because of length, and there was so much stuff in there. And I had spent a lot of time talking to the-- I can't remember the guys name, his job. But it was whoever they sent me to because I was media, and he wasn't a media relations manager or anything. But I spent a lot of time talking to him. And he had let us go to some things that we wouldn't have normally been invited to. And, you know, it was really fun, because it was one of those things where lots of people would like to do things with their own older kids or even with their grandkids but maybe they don't know exactly what to do. And so, you know, here's an option. I worked-- it's not pieces exactly but, I worked on three or four of Chancellor Leutze's documentaries, doing PR for those. And we got some really, really good press coverage out of it, including Southern Living. Those were all a lot of fun to do because I did a lot of press releases but also did a lot of personal contact with people I knew. Like I knew the guy who wrote about nature, who could talk Southern Living into running the piece, you know, so that was a lot of fun.

Diesenhaus: I want to ask a question I try to ask everyone. If you are meeting someone for the first time and they ask you what you do, what do you say? Because almost everyone I talk to have multiple lives. They do-writing isn't the only thing.

McLamb: Yeah, and that's unfortunately what I have to do. I have kind of developed a habit of telling them that I'm schizophrenic. That, you know, I'm a freelance writer, and PR consultant by education and experience and love of the work but I'm also a real estate developer because that's the business that my family's in and I have obligations to that.

Diesenhaus: Did you say the writing part?

McLamb: Yeah, that's what I said first, that I tell them I'm a freelance writing and PR consultant, but then I do this other.

Diesenhaus: When at parts of your life, where the full-time. It sounds like, especially the way you talk about the family business that's never been not a part of your life. Even if you weren't full-time working there were always these other parts. But when writing constituted a larger part, did that then constitute a larger part of your identification of yourself?

McLamb: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean I just, if I'm not physically working there then yes, I can say, "I'm a writer."

Diesenhaus: And how to people respond to that? Do they kind of start asking you questions?

McLamb: Yeah, because there's a lot of overlap in it, which that is great. Like right now I'm putting together the sales team and the marketing and all this stuff for a new development. And a lot of the developers wouldn't have a clue what to do, but because I have been in PR for so long it's just perfect. But yeah, people think that it's very odd that I'm in both businesses. But then because it's family, my brother's also marginally involved in it but he's also a religious scholar. You know, my sister's marginally involved in it but she's also an attorney. So it's just the way the family is.

Diesenhaus: I think I just have one more question, another thing I try to ask everyone is just do you have any advice for writers of any sort, or writers within the specific field that you do, freelancing, travel, health, magazines? People who might want to kind of get into that life?

McLamb: I'll just go for it. I did a lot of volunteer work, just to get my name out there, and I'm not sure how much that actually helped. I certainly met a lot of wonderful people and I do know that I got work directly and indirectly from doing that. Also because I'm not from Wilmington-- and this is one of those very tiny towns, it's a huge city, you know, you have to know everybody, it helped tremendously.

Diesenhaus: Helped establish yourself?

McLamb: Yeah, just to, you know, make the connections that were beneficial to work. I also joined writers groups for a while. I don't do it anymore because they mostly concentrate on fiction and I honestly don't have time. But I went to writers conferences and did all those things to pay dues really, and I also advocate join the Chamber. I mean treat it really like a business. It is a business, and unfortunately in journalism school or English school they don't teach you the business side of it but you have to teach yourself.

Diesenhaus: Thanks very much.

McLamb: Okay.

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