“Put the Kettle On: And Other Cultural Disconnections” by Tracey O’Shaughnessy, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016, $15 paperback
“Every Little Thing: Reflections on Family, Faith and Friendship” by Tracey O’Shaughnessy, Gold Mountain Press, 2009
Full disclosure: For more than 20 years, I worked with Tracey O’Shaughnessy at the Republican-American in Waterbury, Connecticut, and for my last six months there I was her editor for the features sections. Both “Put the Kettle On” (2016) and “Every Little Thing” (2009) are collections of her award-winning essays, and it’s high time for another.
The essays and awards speak for themselves — check out the “Look Inside” samples on “Put the Kettle On” — and I can tell you how she does it. Most newspaper writers, reporters and columnists alike, are trained to pound out the story sparsely and succinctly, on deadline. The result is the black-and-white newspaper writing we are all familiar with.
O’Shaughnessy writes well on deadline, too — witness “Death in the Neighborhood,” a scene-setting piece about the discovery of a body in a city neighborhood. But for most of these essays, she takes her time, honing them, rewriting, adding the bit of detail or atmosphere or memory that puts the reader in the moment. This is writing in color, a rarity among the ink-stained grunts of the newspaper world (this reviewer included).
By keeping a collection of works-in-progress, she is able to refine and research each essay and produce it when it is timely, like a wine that is aged to perfection. You won’t regret sampling a flight of her best offerings, but do so slowly, to savor the depth, delicacy and complexity of each one.