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Journalism experience helps local authors write books

Clockwise, from upper right: Sonora Jha, Laura Coffey, Athima Chansanchai and trio at the talk

Clockwise, from upper right: Sonora Jha, Laura Coffey, Athima Chansanchai and trio at the talk

SPJ’s Western Washington pro chapter kicked off its spring continuing education series March 24 with an event that showed how helpful it is to have a journalism background when a book opportunity comes along.

Laura Coffey, Sonora Jha and Athima Chansanchai (the chapter’s vice president) spoke to a group at the Seattle Times building about their reporting and writing process, lessons learned and shared some best practices. (Author Karen Gaudette Brewer was also scheduled to talk, but got caught in the aftermath of the accident that snarled Seattle’s roads for hours that day.)

Chansanchai talked about the value of writing for daily blogs and being able to produce on deadline in pulling together “100 Things to Do in Seattle Before You Die” within six months. She also credited her first job in Seattle as a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer 10 years ago to giving her the foundation upon which the book is based.

Coffey, whose upcoming book, “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts,” is expected to publish this fall, followed Chansanchai with a thorough and thoughtful look back at a rigorous traveling schedule in which she and photographer Lori Fusaro conducted interviews all over the country, including one that featured George Clooney’s dog. It’s because of journalism — Coffey’s work at, specifically — that led to the book, which sprung out of a story she wrote for the website of the “TODAY” show that went viral. Coffey’s extensive experience as an editor and reporter (also at outlets such as the PI) came in really handy when she had to create a 125-page book proposal that acted as a roadmap for the project, as well as a marketing and promotion plan. She now says she sees stories everywhere — and she encouraged others to pursue those ideas.

Jha, an associate professor of journalism at Seattle University, was the only one of the trio with a fictional book: the novel “Foreign,” about the epidemic of farmers’ suicides in India. Her background as a special correspondent for The Times of India and a journalist in Singapore helped her create authentic quotes and characters, and she was able to stretch herself creatively and out of her comfort zone for other scenes.

Afterward, the authors stayed to chat with guests, who also engaged with them throughout the evening, asking questions and contributing their own insights.

Register for the next event in the continuing education series, “How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck,” April 7.

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