book review · books · On Writing

The Story Behind the Story

I’ve only just begun to read Alisyn Camerota’s Amanda Wakes Up, so this is not a book review. That will come later.

However, I was grabbed by the throat within a few pages of the story. The intelligent, finely crafted prose, a relatable, appealing protagonist and terrific pacing are like nothing I have ever read before. It started with the first line: “My eyes snapped open.”

In real life, Camerota has vaulted from hapless assistant in backwater markets to admirable peaks in broadcast journalism for CNN, FOX, NBC, and others. Her first novel is set in the world of television broadcasting, with an all-in immersion into the heart, mind, on-air/behind the scenes realities, and relationships of Amanda Gallo. As hoped, a keen inside perspective is shared on wardrobe, career challenges, and constant, excruciating pressure to be first, be smartest, and have the best approach to breaking news.

Where the story shines — and it’s getting brighter and more powerful the further that I read — is how it feels, what it is to be in that fish-bowl, vulnerable experience and to make a good life for yourself.

I don’t yet know if the best description of a successful broadcast journalist is this admonition (variously attributed):

Be like a duck: calm on the surface, but always paddling likethe dickens underneath.

Or this super-rough adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s poem If:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself ….

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise…

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken…

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss…

…hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will….

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Politicians and Celebrities — nor lose the common touch…

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…

So, in advance, here is my stunned and delighted reader reaction to a new novelist: Keep On Writing! We need to hear it all, the good and the bad, the genuine love for cherished colleagues sitting beside you on air and behind the camera, helping to share the story. The novel is by turns funny, moving, wrenching, and entertaining — giving a robust perspective that allows the reader to make up their own mind about the story.

P.S. The other night, I heard Camerota speak at R.J. Booksellers in Madison, CT. Her real-life presence is rollicking, intelligent, warm, and down to earth — a juggling feat with a crowd of relatives, colleagues, rabid fans and newsjunkies, and me and the woman sitting next to me who were only there for the story. She sparkled, spoke from the heart with profound respect of the role that she has played in serving the public with the news. I don’t watch the news, but I will finish this book and anticipate with happy delight her next novel.

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