“Gail, this is Ronnie Wise. I just got through reading your blog on the internet and I wanted to call and thank you for your kind thoughts and I’d like to talk to you for a couple of minutes. My cell phone is [. . . ]. Look forward to talking to you.”And so I returned his call. He told me a bit more about the article; said that J.R. (Moehringer, the author) had been working on it for five years and had made numerous trips to Cleveland, Mississippi. The original article was 15,000 words, but Moehringer was forced to pare it down to the 5,000 words as published (the organizational changes at the LA Times affected page space allotted to this project).
We spoke about J.R.’s accomplishments as a writer (2000 Pulitzer Prize recipient in feature writing for his multi-part work about Gee’s Bend, Alabama, published in 1999 in the LA Times). Moehringer has also written a well-received memoir (Tender Bar), which I am currently reading. J.R.’s article on Ronnie Wise’s literacy campaign is a current movie project (so I am not the only one that sees the big screen possibilities in this story).
Ronnie also said that, although the article was generally well-received, a few people in the Cleveland area did not take too kindly to Moehringer’s portrayal of their community. Wise is therefore somewhat of a target instead of a hero in these misguided people’s eyes. They’re only a small percentage, he says, but they tend to have the power, the money, and the land.
Thanks, Ronnie, for the phone call. Good luck to you. And I look forward to the movie.
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