Thursday, November 30, 2006
Author speaks at Holy Family
By SUE WATSON
Jesse Holland, a graduate of H.W. Byers School and Ole Miss, visited Holy Family School recently to field questions about what it means to be a reporter and book author.
Holland’s first book, “Black Men Built the Capitol. And other things you don’t know about Washington, D.C.” is set to be released in August 2007.
Reading comic books like Spiderman and Superman were Holland’s hobby as a youngster which provided a stimulus that drew him to writing, first as a reporter for Associated Press and now as a book writer, he said.
“To be a reporter, you have to be able to write and you have to read,” he said.
Holland spent the hour fielding questions from students about the life of a reporter/author, and what it is like to be with the president or at the Pentagon.
“Bill Clinton was my first time to meet a president,” he said. “He’s a big guy, but very friendly and a Southerner as well. What hit me most was his height.
“George Bush is two inches shorter than I. Both presidents are really friendly, speak with a Southern twang and are serious guys. So you better ask a serious question.”
Sometimes presidents relax with reporters on trips, he said.
The Pentagon is the world’s largest government office building, he said.
What you don’t see is how much of the Pentagon is underground.
“There are miles of offices and corridor spaces,” he said. “It’s the headquarters of the U.S. Military - all four branches.”
Holland said being a reporter is different from being a book writer.
“A reporter is more fun, because you meet someone new everyday and you get a steady paycheck,” he said. “As an author, you are out there on your own.”
Book writers, however, can choose their subject, while reporters cannot.
Students asked about plagiarism.
Reporters caught plagerizing are fired. Book writers caught plagisrizing are sued for the proceeds of their book, he said.
His idea to write a book about African Americans’ contributions to history in Washington came about through observation that tour guides do not include black history in American history, he said.
“The book is about telling African American history as well,” he said.
Holland has one and a half chapters to write to finish his book of nine chapters, he said.
After that he will go back to work as a full-time reporter.
As an AP reporter you can pick the state you want to work in or the country, he said.
Holland has worked in Jackson, Columbia, S.C., Albany, N.Y. and six years in Washington.
He said as a young aspiring writer he wanted his name to be in the library on a book.
He expects his second book will be a novel about growing up in Holly Springs.
In Washington on September 11, 2001, all cell phone service was down, he said. Most people were communicating with their families via e-mail. His wife was late for work that day and was not in the Pentagon when the plane hit. A good friend was with the President in Florida and spent the rest of the day aboard Air Force One.
One student asked how old one has to be to write a book.
“Start writing your book now,” he said. “You can write about sports or a basketball game. Anything.”
As a Washington political reporter, Holland did not see or report on New Orleans after Katrina, he said.
Holland graduated from Ole Miss in 1994 with a degree in English and journalism. He is back home this week to serve as a member of the department of journalism’s advisory board.
Jesse is the son of Jesse Holland Sr. and Yvonne Holland, a teacher at Byers School.
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