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Killable Hours

When Pamela Eddy (CAS ’78) decided she wanted to be a writer, she approached the career with the methodology of a lawyer.

She did the research. She devoured books like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life that give tips on how to be a writer. She read books about how to be published. She kept a file cabinet full of potential story ideas and had 20 legal pads filled with longhand writing.

It didn’t bother Eddy to plot and plan her writing career, to do the tedious, lawyer-like research, because, well, she was a lawyer. Or at least she had been a lawyer for 15 years.

She found, though, her job in the London office of a U.S. law firm didn’t let her be creative. She couldn’t imagine spending another 15 years in the same position. After developing a story outline, she retired as a lawyer, making the leap to writing full-time.

Her debut novel, Killable Hours (Five Star), draws on her experience as an attorney living in London. The book revolves around murder, office politics, and hubris among American lawyers in London. — Rebecca Prosser

Kids Who Laugh

As a young boy, Lou snuggled under his covers, lapsing into dreams while listening to cackling comedy shows on Pittsburgh’s KDKA-AM. Stars like Jack Benny did more than make the youngster laugh. They—along with his father—became role models.

Now a stand-up comedian and professor of psychology at San Diego State University, Lou Franzini (FAS ’68, CAS ’63) has worked in humor research for the past 10 years. In his recently published book, Kids Who Laugh: How to Develop Your Child’s Sense of Humor (Square One Publishers), he theorizes that humor is an acquired trait rather than an innate sixth sense.

“In my case, trying out funny things and witty comments were encouraged, particularly by my father,” he says, recalling his father’s trademark cross-eyed funny face.

Now a father, Franzini experiments with his “living laboratory,” 3-year-old Sam. Dad follows the theories in his book, categorizing humor by age level. For Sam, that means goofy faces and slapstick humor.

The pupil gets good grades from his teacher. “Fortunately, despite all the obvious pressure on him and me, Sam has turned out to be a very funny kid,” says Franzini.
—Cara J. Hayden

Money Has No Smell

Paul Stoller ambles along Harlem’s 125th Street past tables overflowing with African cloth, ornamental beads, and primitive wooden statues. He stops at a table filled with colorful fabrics, thoughtfully arranged. A dark-skinned man smiles at Stoller, a White Washingtonian. The merchant says something to him in Songhay, a West African dialect. Remarkably, Stoller replies in Songhay. An anthropologist and writer, he spent seven years living among the Songhay people of Niger. Other West African merchants notice this exchange and gather around. Eventually, lunch appears. Friendships form.

Stoller has been writing about the life of West African traders in New York City since that day in 1992.

His latest book, Money Has No Smell (University of Chicago Press) describes the lives of immigrant West African traders. They rely on shared bonds—the Muslim religion, cultural and kinship ties, and a legacy of ancient trade practices—to attract customers and keep misfortune at bay.

Stoller (CAS ’69) majored in philosophy and history here and was the Pitt News editor in chief during his senior year. Just before graduation, he visited the Peace Corps office. He joined the corps and, upon graduation, left for Niger. Since then, he has published nine books, many dealing with West Africa.
Cindy Gill

We Fish

A rope tethered father and son at the waist. Father hoisted the child to his shoulders, waded into a mountain stream, and gave the child a baited line. The boy was barely 4 years old. Soon, he shared his father’s passion.

There were things other than fishing shared by Jack L. Daniel and his son, Omari. Years later, they bowled on the same team and were card-playing partners. But fishing became a language for them, a metaphor for the son’s passage into adulthood, and the father’s understanding of his role as protector and teacher.

That’s the basis of We Fish: The Journey to Fatherhood (University of Pittsburgh Press), written by Daniel (FAS ’68, FAS ’66, CAS ’63), Pitt’s vice provost for undergraduate studies and dean of students, and Omari C. Daniel (CAS ’93), a poet and high school English teacher, whose poems intersperse his father’s prose.

The authors’ intent, they agree, is to provide insights for assisting African American males’ transitions from childhood to manhood and fatherhood.

The father’s standard for his son was consistent. “A ‘B’ average was unacceptable,” the father says, “though some in society would say that’s okay for an African-American male.”

Looking back, the son says he has no complaints.
Kris B. Mamula

Writing from the Inside Out

Standing at about 14,000 feet, Mount Rainer creaks and groans at night as the solid ice and snow monolith settles. For days, Dennis Palumbo hikes up the summit, carving steps into the glassy mountain face as smoke from recently erupted Mt. St. Helen’s wafts through the air.

He is on the zenith researching his screenplay. As he arrives at the top, he immediately thinks he should get in shape. Although getting in shape meant more. After 17 years of screenwriting, Palumbo (CAS ’73) was heavy. His marriage ended, and he was in therapy. He came down the mountain, returning to Los Angeles, determined to change.

Therapy intrigued him. He volunteered at a local psychiatric hospital, leading to graduate classes in psychology.

During a subsequent power lunch with a producer, Palumbo kept glancing at his watch, worried he would be late for the psychodrama class he taught. As he drove to the class, he realized psychology meant more to him than screenwriting.

A decade later, with a private practice in psychology, Palumbo no longer writes screenplays. The psychotherapist still writes, though. In Writing from the Inside Out (John Wiley & Sons), Palumbo ruminates about the perils and promise of the writer’s life.
Meghan Holohan

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