‘Where Dreams Die Hard’ offers inspiration

By David McLain

Journalist and nationally recognized author Carlton Stowers spoke Tuesday to several Baylor classes, offering writing advice from his own experiences.

The event was in conjunction with One Book, One Waco, a program of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce in which a new book is selected each year that community members will read simultaneously.

“One Book, One Waco is a community literacy program that started at Baylor that [the Waco] Chamber took over in 2008,” said Alexis Weaver, director of community development for the chamber.

Stowers’ book “Where Dreams Die Hard” was selected for One Book, One Waco for fall 2012.

For the book, Stowers spent nearly a whole school year with the community of Penelope to chronicle the life of a small town that thrives on six-man football.

“It’s a book about a town not far from here, with a population of about 200,” Stowers said. “It’s the 16th-poorest school district in the state of Texas. It’s a great place.”

The week after it was published, Stowers said, he received a phone call from the office of the New York Times book review.

“It told a story that hadn’t been told,” Stowers said. “It told what rural America is today. I had no expectations other than ‘I want this to be recognized as a good book.’”

Stower said he has been writing for a long time.

“I have always seen my role as a writer as that of a matchmaker,” Stowers said. “What I like to do is to seek out, and if I get lucky, find that person, place, situation that really interests me.”

Emotion is an important part of writing a successful story, Stowers said He told students that much of his success as a writer comes from the emotion that he puts into his works.

“You’ll hear that it’s important as a reporter that you stay detached. That’s bull. Forget that,” Stowers said. “If you have not evoked some kind of emotional response from your reader, there is something missing in what you’ve done.”

Robert Darden, associate professor in the department of journalism, public relations and new media, introduced Stowers to the students gathered to listen.

“He’s written a lot of true crime and straight history, but he’s probably best known in this part of the country for his book on sports,” Darden said.

Stowers is a former reporter for the Dallas Morning News and has written articles for a variety of publications, including Sports Illustrated, Time and People. Much of his time at the Dallas Morning News was spent covering crime and police stories. Stowers’ books have been awarded Best Fact Crime Book of the Year by The Mystery Writers of America and nominated for a Pulitzer.

“Everyone who writes has to find his or her niche,” Stowers said. “Whatever it is that gets your motor running is what you should write about.”