Tom Junod’s Trousers-Down Moment

Journalist headed to upstate New York for magazine writing seminar and 9/11 anniversary lecture.

NYSWritersInstituteLogoThere’s no better way to whet the appetite for University of Albany alum Tom Junod’s return to upstate New York later this week than to read Paul Grondahl’s profile piece today in the Times-Union.

The article starts off with Junod’s student days, and the influence of a particular class (English) and particular assignment (it involved Joan Didion). Then Grondahl moves on to a seminal moment in the award-winning journalist’s life:

Juno ended up in the fallback position: traveling handbag salesman. He and another salesman got held up in their Los Angeles hotel room room. “We were partying and I’d left the door open to my room. I had gone to the bathroom and literally had my pants down and was urinating when I felt the click of a .45 automatic at my temple,” he recalled.

The assailant made repeated threats to shoot the two. Junod was deeply shaken, and that job soon ended. He wrote a story about the stickup and poured himself into the piece, which seemed to flow from the core of his being. It was personal and harrowing and redemptive.

“I didn’t try to publish it, but I realized I could write about a powerful personal experience in a narrative way,” he said.

Junod, a writer at large for Esquire, will teach a seminar on magazine writing Thursday at the University of Albany’s upstate campus and mark the anniversary of 9/11 on Friday by reading from his celebrated 2003 article “The Falling Man” at the New York State Museum. SUNY’s New York State Writers Institute is a co-sponsor of both events.