Writers and Writing - Randy Starkman

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For those of you involved in or aware of the world of sports, especially in Toronto,you will likely be well acquainted with the name Randy Starkman. Aside from working as a sports journalist responsible for the Olympic sports' beat for The Toronto Star, he is also an author with three books to his credit.
A Toronto native, Randy started out in the journalism program at Ryerson but left it in his second year when he was offered a full-time position at United Press Canada where he had been covering sports on the weekends part-time.
The newspaper veteran knows that the business has changed dramatically in his almost 30 year career but continues to explore new opportunities with the kind of curiousity and enthusiasm that is the hallmark of his writing style. If you follow Randy's writing you appreciate that he is able to maintain the professional distance that journalism requires while still capturing the essence of his subject's personality and situation. He says he sometimes leave "times" and other technical details out of a piece; "to me that sometimes gets in the way of the story." He is a writer who likes to get to the heart of a story and is unafraid to share what he finds: "That's what I enjoy - that's what I like to read. I like to be inspired."
The heart of the story whether in his column or books is achieved by using "The Starkman Torture Technique" coined by his wife (CBC Radio host) Mary Hynes. He laughs when he says that he is like a dog with a bone when he is interviewing someone and wants to make sure when it is all said and done that he hasn'r left anything on the table: "I keep at it - grinding away - until they can't take it any more." Nothing could be further from the truth as is evidenced by the number of athletes who have trusted him with exclusive stories along the way. His reputation and integrity are second to none.
Randy's first book was co-authored by Currie Chapman called 'On the Edge'. It was published before the 1988 Olympics by McGraw Hill Ryerson and focused on 10 years of history of the Canadian Women's Ski Team under the leadership of Chapman who was their coach. His second book was co-authored with Eric Lindros and was his life story called 'Fire on Ice' published in 1991 by Harper Collins. In both cases he says: "I have loved the book experience. I really enjoyed having something big to sink my teeh into." His experience with the Eric Lindros book was such that they ended up #1 on the best seller list and were in the top 10 for a long time. He wishes that he could have had the same kind of promotion for the skiing book, which was also filled with great stories and insights.
His third book was for Scholastic prior to the 1994 Olympic Winter Games, called Let the Games Begin! It was aimed at young people and yes, there was a little dust-up about the title that got sorted out before the publication.
He is currently working on a book with Olympic Champion Clara Hughes and is very enthusiastic about the project. Randy says: "I am very fortunate. She is such a hard worker and has great stories." he goes on to say: "I am at a point where I don't want to work with just anyone."
Randy's advice for potential authors: "I really think you have to have a passion for what you're writing about. It will carry you through the 'dog days'. You have to be obsessed and for me personally you have to believe what you are writing about. You have to really want to do it."
When you look more closely, you will see that Randy Starkman practices what he preaches. He says that even with the ever shrinking newspaper business, there will always be a need for story tellers and if you can be flexible and open, you will find opportunities. Look for Randy Starkman onTwitter @TheStarkSide, on his blog at http://www.thestar.blogs.com/o... or online at www.thestar.com/sports.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Pj Kwong

Pj Kwong is a figure skating expert and writer currently working for CBC Sports. Her first book, Taking the Ice: Success Stories from the World of Canadian Figure Skating (BookLand Press), will be in stores in September 2010.

Go to Pj Kwong’s Author Page