Monday, May 2, 2016

Notes from Unbound Book Festival: Senator Claire McCaskill on Politics, the State of Journalism and Writing PLENTY LADYLIKE

Senator Claire McCaskill
There was a long line to get into the auditorium to listen to Senator Claire McCaskill and Terry Ganey talk about writing the book Plenty Ladylike. A benefit of being among the first in line was getting a front-row seat in the crowded auditorium.

The one-hour discussion was moderated by Vicky Russell from the "Columbia Daity Tribune." Index cards were handed out in advance for people to write down questions, which were asked at the end of the presentation.

The first question Ms. Russell asked Senator McCaskill was how she is doing after her breast cancer diagnosis. The senator said she is "doing great." She expressed thanks for all the prayers, kind thoughts, and words of encouragement she received during her recovery, even from some of her “haters.” 

Senator McCaskill and Mr. Ganey talked about how the book came to be -- the initial idea and the writing process. He said he believed her story needed to be told in part because she is "a remarkable star and a Senator, who once was on a game show in Hollywood." He began collecting material in 2011, which included interviews and oral history.

Then, according to Senator McCaskill, "Aiken happened.”  The focus of the book shifted to the 2012 election between the senator and Todd Aiken. The agents representing the book later told her they wanted a broader story.

Senator McCaskill's goal for the book was to be "honest, candid, and real, but not hurtful."

Mr. Ganey's role was to be a collaborator, more of a helper, in writing the book. The senator found the biggest challenge working with a co-writer was remaining true to her voice. Because of their difference in writing styles, she said, "it got a little bumpy at times."

He was the disciplinarian who kept her on deadline. Mr. Ganey joked that "at times it was like capturing Peter Pan’s shadow.”

The senator admitted she is not one to keep a journal, although she remarked, “journals look good in stores, but I never write in them.” So she provided him just what she remembered.

The risk of writing a book like hers, she believed, was that the book itself could become a news story. She said could’ve written some stories that would have sold more books, but that would’ve hurt people and she didn't want to do that.

She wanted to write something to let young girls know "it's okay to be bossy and have a big mouth," because she believes "women don’t have to be uncomfortable owning their ambition or not being likeable."

Regarding the editing process, she said the original manuscript was twice as long as the final book. "They really cut the hell out of it," she said. 

When asked if she'd do it again, she compared writing a book to having a baby. "The first five to six months are not so terrible, but the last hour is painful. Then you forget the pain with the joy of creation."

When asked what she might want to write about, she said she is concerned about politics today in terms of the breakdown of the journalistic model. She believes that journalism is searching for a business model. The senator would like to see a focus on expansive pieces with more investigative reporting; with reporters developing sources and writing in-depth articles -- for example, how Medicare for all would be funded.

Regarding politics, she compared the state of today's politics to a "demolition derby with so many bad actors," and the media "focusing on what makes people mad or afraid."

When asked about her political ambitions, she said she is "irritated at Jefferson City and the elected officials in the state." To sum it up, she said, “We need to stand our ground in Missouri.”

This was the first time I'd ever heard Senator McCaskill speak in public, and I'm so happy I sat in on her session. I found her refreshingly candid and, typical of most Missourians, down-to-earth. Senator McCaskill was also intelligent and classy -- and very ladylike.

15 comments:

  1. Sounds interesting, indeed, Donna! And I agree with her thoughts about journals--I always think I'm going to write stuff down...:-) (On an added note, would anyone like a really lovely journal. I've got a million of 'em!)

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    1. Hi Cathy,
      It was an interesting session. I bet you have some lovely journals. Although I take notes during conferences in journals or notebooks, I have lots of unused or half-used journals too. Maybe I should have a giveaway.
      Hope all is peachy with you Georgia writers!

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  2. Sounds so interesting and I am intrigued by her willingness to spare the feelings of others. Being truthful is one thing, but hurting others unnecessarily seems to be the trend. I hope I can interest my book club in her book!

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    1. Hi Claudia,
      You are right. Some tell-all books go out of their way to be hurtful, but she stated one of her goals was not to be hurtful. Hope your book club reads her book. I didn't get a chance to buy a signed copy so her book is on my list to check out from the library.

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  3. I really enjoyed the session, too! Thanks for writing this recap.

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  4. I really enjoyed the session, too! Thanks for writing this recap.

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    1. Hi Dianna,
      It was fun to share the event with you and Mary.

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  5. Donna--I initially heard the name Claire McCaskill for this conference and I thought, 'That'll be a snore-fest,' but obviously I was way wrong.

    I think it's always interesting to hear about how two or more writers collaborate on a writing project. A "little bumpy"? That made me smile.

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    1. Hi Sioux,
      It was anything but a snooze-fest. You should've heard what she had to say about her kerfuffle with the Clintons -- but they're ok now.

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  6. Intelligent, classy, and ladylike - now there's a wonderful combination! Something to aspire to, young and old, I think. So glad you enjoyed the event. Thanks for sharing it with us. :)

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    1. Hi Karen,
      You are welcome. I think young women need inspiring role models.

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  7. Thanks for the recap, Donna. As I read,I found myself smiling and nodding over many of the statements you shared by Claire McCaskill. I especially liked that her goal for the book was to be"honest, candid, and real, but not hurtful." And I'm in complete agreement with her comment, “journals look good in stores, but I never write in them.” (I do use inexpensive composition books though.) Her view of politics was spot on. Altogether, I really liked this woman. Thank you again, Donna, for sharing.

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    1. Hi Clara,
      I think many writers have journals with some blank pages.
      I'm glad you liked the recap. Thanks for your comments.

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  8. Great coverage, Donna. I enjoyed getting a peek into the event through your post. I always liked Claire as a person, especially her message to girls.

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    1. Hi Linda,
      Thanks. I was impressed with her talk and message. She's an inspiring role model for young women.

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