Derek Gentile: Answers to common reader questions


PITTSFIELD >> I get questions from time to time. Most of them are respectful and honestly inquisitive. Some aren't.

I actually welcome them. I don't have anything to hide. Here are a few:

Q: Where in the name the Deity did you learn to write? (Usually couched in a sarcastic tone).

A: I suppose the basic answer is at Hoosac Valley High School and Northeastern University and then later the Boston Globe. But really, I learned to write by reading. I read copiously as a kid and continue to. When students ask me the best way to prepare for journalism, I suggest they read a lot.

Q: Do you ever think about doing something else?

A; I think the problem is, this is about the only thing I know how to do well with any degree of facility. I could probably be a security guard or sweep floors, but that's about it.

Q: Is writing for the Berkshire Eagle your life's ambition?

A: That's a funny thing. When I was growing up, I used to read The Eagle (as well as the old North Adams Transcript). The concept of gathering information and writing something on deadline was very frightening to me as a kid. It seemed an Olympian task. As it turned out, writing these stories is the least of the job. Gathering information and getting it correct is the challenge.

Q: Do you ever get too wrapped up in a specific story?

A: Not the way you'd think. I've written the obituaries of both my parents. It was tough, but I focused on being factual and professional. But sometimes, when I have to deal with people who were wronged or hurt by a scam or an assailant, I do struggle with objectivity. It seems somehow wrong to be objective.

Q: Do you have a favorite writer?

A: Conan Doyle. The Sherlock Holmes stories are very clever and well thought out, but the way he writes dialog is priceless and the way he constructs the actual story is incredible. Contemporarily, I was a big Hunter Thompson fan, and David Halberstam. I used to enjoy reading Brian Sullivan's column.

Q: What were the most trying circumstances under which you've written a story?

A: The Saturday before Thanksgiving in 2011, I was septic with my infected leg (which was obligingly removed a few days later). I was hallucinating. I saw a man in a Civil War uniform walking down Main Street in Great Barrington. The sky was orange, the street was blue. But I still wrote an advance on the Great Barrington Selectmen's meeting.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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