I have to say that when I first decided to ask New York Yankee writer Jerome Preisler if he would do an interview with me, I was a little hesitant. As a Red Sox fan, I hear so much about the Evil Empire, that I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would he be mean? Did he know his baseball? Would there be cracks about my Red Sox? Of course my fears were immediately laid to rest as Jerome proved to be thoughtful and entertaining, and a great source of information on baseball writing.
Jerome has written a column, Deep in the Red for the Yankee’s YES Network since 2005. I can see that it is one of the most popular features on the Yankees, though I must admit that such material can be kryptonite for a Boston fan such as myself. The thing is though; his writing on the Yankees is good. His perspective is a combination of journalist with that of an everyman fan. It is just the type of perspective that I like the most.
On top of his baseball writing, Jerome has also authored nearly 30 books, including 8 novels from the New York Times best-selling Tom Clancy’s Power Plays series. His work is extensive and varied, which are marks of a good writer. Writing is a field that can be an extremely tough business to be successful in, but Jerome is firmly entrenched.
I am sure he would decline, but Boston could use a guy like him on their side. Regardless if you are a Yankee fan or have the good sense to root for another team, I would encourage you to check out Jerome’s work- not only the baseball material, but his other writing as well. Another great way to keep up with him is on Twitter, where he can be found at @YankeesInk. He tell those who do not already follow him on Twitter that, “you need to follow me, which is your obligation as a citizen of earth.” Typical Yankee fan, but a hell of a writer…
Jerome Preisler Interview:
How did you first get interested in writing and baseball?: I've written my entire life. It just stemmed from an early love of reading and was something I felt an urge to do. I started writing a novel when I was ten years old and the bug never let go of me.
As a kid, I only liked basketball, because that was what we played in my neighborhood. Baseball came sometime in the eighties, when I had my first job working at a record store in Manhattan. A bunch of the guys would head up to Yankee Stadium after work to catch games from the bleachers, and I'd tag along. It was under three bucks for a bleacher ticket back then, as I recall, and you could bring your own beer. We went to a lot of games.
Typically, what do you do day to day in your job?: My sports writing and book writing overlap in terms of scheduling, especially in the spring and summer obviously, yet the requirements are very different.
Writing a book, for me, is a difficult grind. I treat it like any 9-5 job, except that my workday usually starts before nine o'clock, ends later than five, and there are no weekends off. I just sit down in front of the computer and go to work, writing, researching, usually both. I try to get somewhere between 500-1,000 words a day done on average, more if I'm nearing a deadline.
Sports writing is different, and much less stressful and exhausting. I'm basically a feature writer for YES, which means I don't have to do the sort of inning-by-inning, game-by-game sort of thing beat writers do. So I can go to an entire series or week of games with a specific story in mind, and take the time to research it, or just let whatever unfolds during that period spark my idea for a column. It allows me to be less reactive than most sportswriters. I'm under no pressure to get any kind of story into the pipeline on any given day. I generally write my sports columns in a single session, which may take anywhere from three to six hours, depending on the subject or length of the piece.
What are your favorite aspects of your job?: Again, it's twofold. Or more correctly, there's a split. With books, it's holding the published book in my hands after a year or so of writing, then another year or so of production. I don't relate to that old chestnut you hear from some authors about writing a book being like giving birth. For me, holding it in my hands is just seeing a whole lot of hard work come to fruition, and knowing I've beat the odds. The thing has been done.
As far as sports writing, it's the instant feedback I get from readers. I write it, and they comment online, or more frequently these days tweet me. I feel I have a very direct and personal sort of relationship with them.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?: Deadlines are very tough. Also the idea some have that anyone can write. And frankly, too many people are willing to write for big companies for free now, especially on the online markets. Or take some deal where they get paid a half cent a view or something and make ten bucks for their articles. I understand the lure. You hope for exposure and someone dangles the carrot that they are giving it to you by putting your work up on a website, and maybe someday they will pay. But once someone thinks they can get your work for free, you will never get paid for it, not in a million years, not until the end of time. And the recipients of the work will think everyone else will write for free too, so if you ask for money, they'll find someone else they don't have to pay. They may like your work but that is secondary to their cheapness and lack of full appreciation for it.
How difficult was it for you to break into the professional writing world?: Breaking in wasn't as hard as staying in. Staying in the game is what's exceedingly difficult. Because the market is constantly changing and you have to be on your toes to change with it. It's like being a batter and having to make adjustments as the league finds the weaknesses in your swing.
Do you have any tried and true advice for aspiring writers?: Recognize that writing is a business, and a merciless one. You have to stay on top of the game. The publishing business is structured to keep you out, and it is becoming more and more corporatized and impenetrable. There are still ways in, but you have to be smarter and make fewer mistakes than I did when there were more ways. It's like going to war. You have to be your own strategic and tactical general--and be a damn good one. That means learning the rules of engagement, fighting with greater intelligence and cunning than the opposition, and staying tough.
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