In Maximum Vantage: New Selected Columns, journalist Bill Maxwell addresses issues faced by Florida and broader American society, offering opinions on a wide variety of questions with a focus on race, agricultural labor, education, and the environment. We asked Bill Maxwell some questions about his new book, which we’re sharing below.
What do you want readers to take away from your work?
I want readers to see my use of logic and reason in examining issues that impact the essence of our daily lives. When we use logic and reason, we are forced to become introspective, and introspection leads to truth and honesty.
Who are your favorite writers, and how have they influenced or informed your own work?
My favorite writers are Albert Camus and Ernest Hemingway, each a journalist turned novelist. Camus because his brand of existentialism defines my view of human life. As a Black man (no small matter), I see only absurdity and futility. Everything is indifferent to my existence. I appreciate Hemingway for the simplicity of his expression and his closeted existentialism.
When did you begin writing and what motivated that?
I began writing earnestly in 10th grade, when I started the two-page newspaper, Tiger Times, at my all-Black high school using the mimeograph machine in the teachers’ work room. I was motivated to start the paper after reading several issues of the student paper at the all-white high school across town. Tiger Times kept me in “good trouble.”
What has been your proudest achievement during your writing career?
Having Florida governors Lawton Chiles, Bob Graham, and Jeb Bush personally thank me for introducing them to some of the harsh treatment migrant farmworkers endure. They invited me to accompany them to migrant sites. All three introduced policies that improved field conditions and housing for migrant workers.
How has the internet changed nonfiction writing, and has that change been good or bad?
The internet has been good and bad. It has been good by giving us instant access to unlimited information. It has been bad because it effectively killed our responsible gatekeepers. Now, anyone who sits at a keyboard is an authority. As a result, we have seen the proliferation of the conspiracy theory complex that menaces the future of civil relations everywhere.
In your opinion, what makes a great story?
For me, a great story is one that challenges readers to question the truth of their long-held opinions and/or viewpoints.
What is one piece of advice you would offer new writers?
Know what you stand for and stand up for it. Learn the craft’s essentials and be courageous in expressing yourself.
For more information about Maximum Vantage, click here.