Friday, March 7, 2008

How I wrote the story: "Beware the chair," by Frank Bodani

Hey folks, with this post I'm starting a new occasional feature on the blog. I'll ask staffers to talk about how they wrote, photographed, filmed or designed a story or slideshow or video, and then post their answers.

Frank Bodani's story "Beware the chair" has just been honored by Associated Press Sports Editors and by the Keystones. I asked Frank to talk about an element of doing that story that stood out to him. Here are his thoughts:

"The key to writing the story, 'Beware the Chair,' was simply coming up with the idea. How do you find a feature on wheelchair rugby? How do you find Travis Oldhouser, the story's hero, so to speak?

It all came from a previous story I did in August of 2006. That piece featured a former local athletic director and football coach who was continuing a long recovery from a deer hunting accident that left him a quadriplegic. That gentleman made sure I talked to Oldhouser, another quadriplegic and inspiration to him.

One thing led to another.

Oldhouser told me about playing wheelchair rugby. I latched onto that tidbit but couldn't do anything with it right away because I was ready to start covering Penn State football again. And because rugby wasn't in season.

January -- almost five months away -- would be perfect, as long as I was patient enough and didn't forget.

That was the key: picking up on a tip from another story, storing it away for the perfect time, and then turning it into even a better piece.

When January came, and the rugby season was in full-swing, half of my battle was won.

The other half was making the piece come alive. That happened by allowing Oldhouser (though a quad) to drive Bil Bowden and I to one of his practices in Philadelphia. We talked to Oldhouser in his element, received a great insight into his life and the lives of his teammates, who all had unique stories.

Sometimes the writing isn't even the most important part of the story. "