Barry Siegel is the Director of the Literary Journalism program at UC Irvine. He is often referred to as "an LA Times legend," and is a Pulitzer prize winner. His office is on the fourth floor of the Humanities Instructional Building, where he displays part of a framed collection of California postcards on his wall (he only has part of this collection: an ex-girlfriend from his "younger days"). Books and papers and magazines are stacked, strewn, and scattered.
To me, he is simply Barry.
He sends multiple e-mails with attachments to read and assignments to write. Barry reminds me not to be "too wordy," because although we love language, it sometimes clouds meaning. We like to talk about Gay Talese, Truman Capote, and Jon Krakauer; we will re-read and re-read the same stack of words until its shaved down to what is essential. Barry's a writer, and an artist.
His voice is gentle and firm, with an encouraging rasp that quivers when especially passionate. When he calls me "Jaz," he's scatting my name, as part of the poetry he speaks--those drops of wisdom he repeats to journalism students:
- "Show, don't tell."
- "Push beyond your known world."
- "Trust your instincts."
Barry beams with pride every time he mentions that our journalism program is the only kind in existence in the entire UC system. His shoulders hunch forward, gently.
He convinces me to believe in myself, to keep at the work. He knows that good things take time; but he is also no stranger to deadlines, keeping or establishing them. The goal is to craft words, to be timeless.
Here's a few thousand words--to Barry.