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Former Day columnist Steven Slosberg to sign Dec. 12 at Bank Square Books

Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday were Slosberg Days.

For 22 years, that was the thrice-weekly spark of awareness for many readers of The Day as they flipped to the front of the Region section. They knew they'd see Steven Slosberg's familiar stipple portrait atop a reliably readable column that, depending on his wide-angle sense of curiosity — and the interests of subscribers — would entertain, anger, compel, touch, provoke, astonish or ignite any of several very human emotions. Possibly, these feelings would contradict maddeningly, or harmonize like the Everlys.

Last month, Slosberg, who retired from The Day in 2007 and now writes a weekly column for The Westerly Sun, self-published a book called "Columnist — 45 Years of Having a Say," a selection of 46 of his newspaper pieces spanning his career.

On Dec. 12, he'll sign copies of "Columnist" at Bank Square Books in Mystic.

By design, the collection, which Slosberg curated with his friend Len Fried, the columns selected mostly don't deal with the political or number among his fair share of controversial efforts. They focus, instead, on what might be considered his biggest strength — quick vignettes about folks and circumstances Slosberg encountered by happenstance, a reader's tip or by writerly intuition.

Telling the tale

"I'm a better storyteller than an opinion guy," Slosberg says. He's seated outside Mystic Market on a pleasant, late November day, picking through a salad as though looking for fun parts that maybe aren't there. "I like to write about people who had stories but no way to tell them. I really enjoy doing that and I think I discovered I had a knack for seeking out people and capturing them. We all have our niche and that's what I'm most comfortable with."

"Columnist" is a generous sampling of work that, in quick and often poetic brushstrokes, captures a wide swathe of the region's humanity and distinctive characteristics.

In the fashion of a sleight of hand artist adroitly fanning only face cards, Slosberg explores the distinguished alums of the Montville jail; spends a vigorous day on a fishing boat to honor a debt of camaraderie; traces the circumstances and fate of a high school football star turned an otherwise forgotten but heroic soldier; laments forthright honesty when attempting to mail a salami overseas in the post-9/11 world; pens appreciations and remembrances of high school teachers, children and family physicians; reports on the star-spangled evening at the grand opening of a casino; describes almost Zen sublimity of washing dishes; and details an afternoon he crossed the hallowed boundary between journalist and subject by inviting Linda Solsbury — a woman who'd been left mute and paralyzed after a stroke a civil suit jury determined had been caused by chiropractic manipulation of her neck — to his home for a garden party ...

"Steve was an old-school journalist," says Tim Cotter, executive editor of The Day, who worked at the paper with Slosberg for over 20 years. "He combed everything from the North Stonington Historical Society newsletter to the legal ads in The Day looking for column ideas. And he had a knack for writing about things we somehow missed but could instantly relate to."

Ah, poetry

Another aspect of his style was that Slosberg has a distinctive if subtle flair for the perfectly timed dash of a poetic phrase. In one piece, for example, he wrote "... the tragic algebra of x plus y equaling suicide." In another: "Who plays blackjack at the same volume he'd get a train to stop?"

Indeed, at the start of his writing career, Slosberg wanted to be a poet. It's a prickly career choice, and certainly not one in which success is the guaranteed reward of a meritocracy. In fact, Slosberg, a Norwich native, had a bit of modest early success, though — enough, he says, that at least his poems gave him something to show editors when he applied for jobs at newspapers.

After starting at the Willimantic Chronicle, Slosberg came to The Day as a town reporter and, after successively covering Norwich, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Groton, found himself covering politics and then as a member of the editorial staff with renowned Day alums Morgan McGinley and Greg Stone. Gradually, his work began to include the occasional column about issues.

"I hated covering politics and was pretty bad at it, but when I was writing the column, I would slip in the occasional bedtime story," Slosberg laughs. Ultimately, he moved, in mostly comfortable fashion, to the front of the Region section and remained until he took a company buyout offer and, he laughs, "put out to pasture."

"It's a cliche but Steve didn't write his columns, he crafted them," Cotter says. "Language was as important to him as whatever he was writing about. He would fight with any editor, myself included, over the use of every word, every comma. In my three decades editing, his writing still stands out."

Booking it

"My first thought was, 'Who's gonna read this?'" says Slosberg, explaining the internal debate he hosted when deciding whether to publish the volume. "At the same time, I liked the idea of having some of my work in a collected form. It feels somewhat vain, but why not? It's readable and I'm proud of it."

The idea of having a bound, representative record of one's work is probably something that appeals to all writers of daily journalism or short form writing. While the gratification exists for the writer (and reader) on an almost daily basis, the work is also essentially gone after publication — exiled to online archives.

Collections of a newspaper columnist's work are occasionally contracted by major publishing houses — nationally known names like Mitch Albom or Dave Barry — but such opportunites are seldom afforded small town writers. After a long career, the impulse to self-publish might be a practical and popular solution.

"The world of self-publishing has blossomed, both in terms of writers who are using it as well as the quality of the product," Slosberg says. Ultimately, his friend Fried, whom he describes as a marvelous short story writer who self-published a volume of his work called "Taxman," convinced Slosberg that to compile "Columnist" was a worthy project. With the simple but elegant layout and design by another friend, Susan Lindberg, Slosberg commissioned 200 copies — an amount indicative of the author's modest intentions.

"I still feel somewhat vain," Slosberg says, "but early response from readers has been encouraging. I'm glad I let Len talk me into it." At this point, Slosberg has spoken about the book and his experiences to a few local civic groups and sold enough copies that he's re-upped with another order.

In one of "Columnist's" opening pieces, Slosberg describes his then-pre-school daughter inventing a highly unlikely scenario that would hopefully result in a late-night search for a racoon.

"I can't discipline her, not with a straight face," Slosberg writes. "At least not for this stuff. She knows that she invents things and gets this hangdog look about her when I start probing her motivations ... She looks me in the eye and I cannot mask my approval. What's a storyteller to do?"

If you go

Who: Former Day columnist Steven Slosberg

What: Signs copies of his new book, "Columnist — 45 Years of Having a Say"

When: 1-3 p.m. Dec. 12

Where: Bank Square Books, 57 Main St., Mystic

How much: Free, books available for purchase, $20

For more information: banksquarebooks.com, (860) 536-3795

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