New Story In Narratively Magazine

7 Apr

Check out my newest article this Thursday in Narrative Magazine on Brooke Luu, a Vietnamese refugee who fought for respect and acceptance in America.

I found it amazing when she told me that she didn’t even think she had an interesting story to tell, despite the fact that she escaped Vietnam past armed guards. She told me once that her husband (who is also Vietnamese) had a similar story, but they never even discussed it, because “if you are Vietnamese, then you escaped. We all have that story.”


Check it out on Narratively Magazine  on April 10. was named one of Time Magazine’s fifty best websites of 2013. No celebrity trash, just good ol’ fashioned long form storytelling.


Here’s a teaser:

Five year-old Brooke Luu shivered as she kept her eyes on her mother. There were forty bodies crammed in that fishing boat, each trying to remain silent in hopes that the guards armed with AK-47s would allow them to pass into the night and leave the shores of Vietnam forever.

She watched intently as her mother repeatedly tried to slip a sleeping pill into her infant brother’s mouth so he wouldn’t cry and alert the border patrol. If caught, the women would be sent home, maybe to jail. As for the men, a worse fate likely awaited them.

Brooke’s mother mishandled the cup of water as she forced the medicine down the child’s throat and the water splashed on him. He wailed as the rest of the passengers grew restless. All she could do was cup her hand over the child’s mouth to muffle the shrieks.

“There was no way around the guards. We would have to go straight through them,” Brooke recalls. “All we could do was pray that they would let us keep sailing.”

To reach their first destination—a relocation camp in Malaysia—the Luu family would have to escape Vietnam and battle the South Chinese River without a compass. Rumors of Thai pirates and their savagery loomed.

All to reach America.

She can’t determine what was real and what her memory has pieced together. The recollections fade and reappear when she recalls that night in 1980 when her family attempted to bribe and fight their way to a new life without Communism, without control and without fear. She would eventually find it, yet later struggle for acceptance in her new country—and in her old one.

“The children of the Vietnam War that fled have been stripped of an identity,” she says. “All because we didn’t stay behind.”

*   *   *





Early Black Fighters Laced The Gloves Up In Jersey

1 Feb

In lieu of BLack History Month, I thought this section from my upcoming boxing book was important and a fun read. Sadly, many great fighters were denied fights in certain states due to their race. It makes me proud to say that New Jersey was not one of states.

In Jersey, it doesn’t matter what color you are. Everyone here is encouraged to fight…



"The Black Prince" Peter Jackson

“The Black Prince” Peter Jackson

It was not uncommon, and more importantly at the time not illegal, for black contestants to step into a boxing ring in New Jersey. The World Colored Heavyweight Champion, Peter Jackson of Australia, nicknamed “The Black Prince,” was one of the most feared and controversial fighters of his day, and he made a quick stop in New Jersey in 1889. Born in the Virgin Islands, Jackson was a dangerous heavyweight who was kept from fighting for the heavyweight crown because he was black. John L. Sullivan refused to fight him, but James J. Corbett, the man who dethroned Sullivan, brawled with Jackson to a 61 round draw in California. Jackson smashed his two opponents in New Jersey at Cronheim’s Theatre in Hoboken, Billy Baker and James Ginger McCormick, in three rounds and two rounds, respectively.

The man Jackson beat for that title, “Old Chocolate” George Godfrey, also fought in one of the most barbaric battles in New Jersey boxing history, which is more of a reflection of the conditions of the fight game at the time. The Canadian fighter squared off against white British fighter Denver Ed Smith, also a respected heavyweight of his day. The two battled ferociously for in Hoboken’s Cronheim Theatre, as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported both men were “badly bruised and bleeding.” Yet oddly, the ring construction was poorly laid out, and one side of the ring pressed against a brick wall. The newspaper’s account of how Godfrey won the fight due to some assistance from the brick and mortar:

“Godfrey landed a straight left hander that sent the Western man reeling across the ring. His head came in violent contact with the brick wall and the fight was virtually over. Smith staggered to the center of the ring and Godfrey swung for his jaw. Before another blow could be struck the referee interfered and declared Godfrey the winner.”

George Dixon, known was Little Chocolate, was the first black fighter to ever win a world championship. He won the World Bantamweight Championship in 1890, and won the World Featherweight championship twice, owning for most of the decade between 1891 and 1900. He is considered one of, if not the greatest, bantamweights ever. On Dec. 15, 1893, he fought in the People’s Theater in Paterson, defeating Torpedo Billy Murphy by disqualification. Dixon was winning the fight easily, The Boston Globe Reported, before Murphy threw a bunch at the referee James Stoddard, who was separating the fighters in the third round. Stoddard threw two punches back, and Murphy clinched Stoddard and “rained blows on the old man’s face.

Barbados Joe Walcott, an eventual idol of “Jersey” Joe Walcott, was a fighter from Guyana and is considered one of the greatest welterweights of all-time. He won the title in 1901 by knocking out James “Rube” Ferns . Before he was a top boxing draw,  “The Barbados Demon” defeated Paddy McGuigan in a 10 round decision at the Caledonian Park in Newark on June 5, 1893.

Bobby Dobbs, the lightweight that claimed to have fought in over 1,000 fights, fought multiple times in New Jersey in Trenton and at the Past Time AC in Sea Isle City. He lost a decision to Austin Gibbons in Paterson in 1896.

Boardwalk Empire Fans…

1 May

So here is a post I was working on for The History Of New Jersey Boxing book. …

MICKEY BLAIR (1908 – Nov. 4, 1941) was a super featherweight and lightweight boxer who was murdered in his tavern, The Pleasure Bay Inn, in Atlantic City. The story made national headlines. Known for having several scrapes with the law, Blair was shot to death at 2 a.m. at the Missouri Avenue establishment. Indicted for the murder, and later acquitted, was notorious bootlegger and crime figure Sammy “Cappy” Hoffman. He was born Mickey Tenerelli in Camden and retired with a record of 25-11-2 with 33 no decisions. He was the older brother of N.J. Boxing Hall Of Fame member Frankie Blair.

…and Sammy “Cappy” Hoffman was an enforcer for Nucky Thompson. Along with Jimmy Boyd, he is said to be some of the inspiration for everyone’s favorite character, Jimmy Darmody.

Journalists Take Notice

17 Apr

A Great blog on how different media outlets are covering the Boston bombings. Worth a look.

Boxing Book Due Out Early 2014

22 Mar

Just wanted to pass along that I signed my second contract with the History Press today. The History of New Jersey Boxing is officially green lit. Easy sell when the first fight went 84 rounds and the guy died in the ring.

Wife Wanted (or Wanted: Wife?) Publication Date

14 Mar

Michael Perrota:

So happy for a great friend and a great writer. Go by her book!

Originally posted on WestConn MFA in Creative & Professional Writing:

HarperCollins has released a publication date of June 4, 2013 for my first book with them. They have the title listed as Wife Wanted (which you can see right here), though I had thought it was going to be Wanted: Wife. Authors really have no control over these things, but you know what? Who cares! HarperCollins is publishing my book!

Gwen Jones

View original

CMA Conference Presentation On Localization

11 Mar

Beyond Campus: How to Cover National News

LOCALIZATION is about reader engagement. The theory of localization is to take a national or regional story idea and make it suitable for your college newspaper by making it specific to at least one of three areas: Your campus, your location, or to the overall experience of college life.
Your goal is to understand the CONCEPT that national newspapers are writing about and then strip away all sources the previous story used, and then find new sources that fulfill your specific needs. It allows the opportunity for some fun investigative and enterprising features.

FIND YOUR EXPERTS! Who can speak about this topic intelligently?

A) Professors
B) Administrators
C) Clubs
D) Students general opinion
– Students who are active/aware, or who have experienced it
– On Campus Polls – 200 is a strong number
EXAMPLE: A poll presented by Pew Research Center stated half of United States citizens could not pass a general test on world religions. How can we localize?
EXAMPLE: Gun control may be the hottest topic in the country. Who can we speak to bring that story’s relevance to our campus?

A) Regional Experts
B) Alumni
C) Students who live, dine or travel throughout the area
EXAMPLE: An owner of a local pizzeria is arrested for drug distribution that was taking place inside his restaurant. The establishment is off-campus, but it is a favorite local hangout of students. Is it a story?
EXAMPLE: Last January, the FBI scored the largest single arrest in Mafia history in New York. Can we make this relevant to our campus? Should we call the FBI? Would they call us back?

A) Experts from any area
B) Officials from local, state or federal agencies
C) Company spokesmen
D) Industry experts
E) College student from another college

– Understand the essence of the story
– Scrap all of their sources. Find your own. Do not use quotes from the other articles.
– Your national story quoted a power player? Why can’t yours? CALL PEOPLE. All they can say is no.
– If a national story attributes information to a certain document, study or report, seek out that document yourself. See the information with your own eyes.


1) Radar reveals buried channels on Mars
Scientists peering below the surface of Mars have for the first time detected a maze of channels apparently created by past flooding. Such geologic features are easily spotted on the Martian surface, but researchers have not been able to find them underground until now.
2) Tattoos No Longer A Kiss Of Death In The Workplace
Almost everyone in the 14 percent pool of tattooed Americans has heard something like this from a relative or friend. But as the number of inked Americans grows, is the traditional assumption that tattoos and jobs don’t mix really true in 2013?
Workplace tattoo policies vary among and within industries. But with many contemporary companies stressing commitments to diversity and inclusion, tattoos are becoming increasingly unproblematic across the board.

3) College tuition soars as states reduce funding

Growing enrollments and declining state budgets have been putting the squeeze on colleges and universities for the past 25 years, but the problem got a lot worse last year, says a new report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. That’s bad news for college students and their families, because it falls to them to make up the difference. The percentage of college costs supported by tuition has climbed steadily from 23 percent in 1987 to 47 percent in 2012. Average tuition rates in the U.S. climbed a record 8.3 percent last year.The vice-grip is worse for Utah schools, where money from the state declined by 26.6 percent since 1987, more than at the majority of schools around the nation. The national average for declines in state funding for higher education is 23.1 percent.n n

4) U.S. Catholics Divided On Church’s Direction Under New Pope (Pew Research)

- Prof. Michael Perrota, Mercy College. or Tweet @mperrota

Pre-Order My Book

26 Feb

Shameless Plug Promo, Mick Foley style.

So my first book with the History Press is now available on Barnes and Noble, Amazon and the Mercy has a real interesting back story from the the Rockefellers to an Irish order of nuns. If you are a fan of New York history, this book is a must read. (shameless plug again?)

My next book for the History Press will focus on The History of New Jersey Boxing. I’m excited to get started.

Order Mercy College: Yesterday and Today from Barnes and Noble

Nine Steps of Creating a Formidable College Newspaper

26 Feb
Chronicle Staff, ca. 1908-1911

Chronicle Staff, ca. 1908-1911 (Photo credit: Duke Yearlook)

The process of creating a great newspaper is… actually a process. Newspapers don’t start and become great. They all pretty much start at the bottom and get better as the staff earns experience and sets precedent. Here is a good grading stystem to find out where your paper is and how it can get better.AVERAGE COLLEGE NEWSPAPER:

1 – COLOR: Moderns newspapers need color. Not spot color. Full color. It does not have to be through the entire paper. Color plates come in four sides, so at least the front page, back page, and two inside pages must have color.

2 – DESIGN: Presentation is key for a college newspaper. Some students don’t pick up their high school or college newspaper because it looks unprofessional. Basic design principals must apply for all college newspapers. This includes the consistency of headline size and font, cutline size and font, and typical body copy size and font. Not only should the design be consistent, but components should be properly used and be viewed as appealing to the reader.

3 – COPY EDITING: All newspapers have errors from time to time. But not every week, and not all over the place. Stories should be clean of lazy spellings and incorrect information. Headlines and cutline errors are extremely noticeable. Take pride in rereading stories and producing a clean product.

Before an adviser or editor can even begin to address editorial issues with a college newspaper, it must at least a fresh and clean product to present.


4 – LEADS: It all starts with how it starts. Leads are the lifeblood to any story. The opening 30 words of a news story (one sentence, one paragraph) and the engaging leads of a feature story will determine to a casual reader how professional this newspaper is. Whether readers hang around for the entire story or not, at least the lead should be able to tell readers the traditional 5W and the H in a crisp, tight manner. If a lead is poorly written, it’s a fair assumption that the rest of the article is poorly written.

5 – ORIGINAL AND ENGAGING PHOTOS: Yes, we already covered color and presentation. But photo journalism can be the difference from someone picking up a newspaper. Most likely, a student publication doesn’t have a team of photographers that are capable or have the resources of taking a paper full of original photos. Some photos will be borrowed from national media websites and company websites. But not all of them can be, and not all of them can be the traditionally boring point and click as five people stare at the camera with a smile. Photos need have someone doing something. Photos need to be tried in different lighting and angles. Take risks with photos. Try something different. Stop using Google Images and printing pixilated  messes.

6 – DIVERSE STORIES WITHIN SECTIONS: There is nothing worse than seeing one story in a newspaper about sports, sandwiched next to a story about gardening. Students need to have a grouping system of what is being written about. News and feature stories should blend together. But finance, opinion, sports, entertainment, education, religion and any others sections need to be designed together. Give the reader a roadmap of what they are looking at. Now within those sections, there should be diverse stories about those topics.


7 – LOCALIZATION: The art of taking national stories and localizing them to one of three topics – the actual college, the location or college life as a whole. If the President of the United States speaks, don’t cover the story the same way USA Today would. How does what he said impact college students? How does it impact your area? Any story can be localized. A story about NASA and space exploration is localized once you contact your college’s astronomy professor for quotes and insight.

8 – ENTERPRISE WRITING: Not every story can be a retread of what the national media is spitting out. Find stories that aren’t so obvious. The psychological effect of date rape on campus or finding students who support themselves financially without their parents. These stories do not need a national publication to set precedent for you to write about them.

9 – SOURCE QUALITY: Impress your readers by quoting national organizations. Call the FBI. Call the FDA. Call the NRA. Odds are, as long as you are professional, their public relations teams will call you back. Your sources can’t always be the same six kids who are sitting around in the cafeteria.


10 – SOCIAL MEDIA SUPPLEMENT: The industry is changing, and you have to adapt. You need a website, and you need social media. That does not mean you to put a dagger through the heart of long form journalism and only write 140 character stories. Instead, use social media to advertise your newspaper’s website. Facebook and Twitter share. Find followers. Stay active (but don’t be overbearing or annoying) The more likely someone reads the college newspaper online or are a follower of it on social media, that means they are a supporter – and that means they will pick up the hard copy.

College Media Convention

13 Feb

My session at the Spring National College Media Convention. March 11 1:30-2:20 p.m.
Beyond Campus: How to Cover National News by Prof. Michael Perrota
Check out to register. $125 for students. Three days of great workshops.

Mike Lamberti, From Margate To Cleveland, And Back !

A look at sports, politics, A Summer Place at Margate, Montgomery Inn ribs, Rigatoni Quattro Formaggi at Patsy's, Air Force Academy football, 90210, the Cardinals and Rays, The Godfather, Jaws and Airplane! trivia, Hooters wings, the Browns first Super Bowl, or whatever else comes up....

Yoga Doozies

Teacher, Writer & Yoga Instructor

WestConn MFA in Creative & Professional Writing

Low-Residency Program

Don't Let Em Grind You Down


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