Former Review reporter releases book of favorite columns
Fred Miller worked for more than four decades in journalism, including serving as a beat reporter, photographer and columnist at the East Liverpool Review. After retiring in 2017, he decided that this was a good time to compile a book series consisting of his favorite columns and making available to the public.
“Worshrag, Shark and Seed” contains 50 stories from the 1980s, which are revisited from his Review columns. The 69-year-old West Virginia man wrote more than 700 columns during his 24 years of publication as well as news and feature stories and photos.;
Miller referred to his three children by pet names throughout his columns: Ryan (aka Seed), Molly (Shark) and Cody (Worshrag). The stories recounted in the book are always true but “may be embelleshed,” he explained. “I use my wife Caren (Honey) as a foil throughout most of my pieces, but they always are represented in character.”
Growing up in the rural Gas Valley area of Hancock County near New Manchester (aka Pughtown), Miller went on to graduate from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree in English literature in 1973 after graduating from Oak Glen High School. He worked at various journalism jobs as his wife pursued her education in Oklahoma before eventually earning her veterinary degree and relocating to Virginia≥
It wasn’t until 1980 that Miller walked into the Review and was hired by then-editor Glenn Waight to cover Hancock County and his weekly column began in 1983. “My first column was entitled ‘Detroit’s Done It Again’ about frustrating changes in locations for car controls, like moving the headlight dimmer switch from the floor to the steering column,” he explained. “I described a typical work week in a 1986 column. ‘Friday, as it so happens, is my day to work the wire. That means I lay out page one on Fridays and have some small say in what goes on it. (I am a photographer Mondays, a reporter Tuesdays, a feature writer Wednesdays, off Thursdays, wire editor Fridays and obituary writer Saturdays.)”
He eventually left full-time employment at the Review to become community relations director at East Liverpool City Hospital, where he would work until 2003 and continued writing his column after a year hiatus.
Some of the republished columns included lessons on how to speak “hoopie” and address topics such as “How can a doll be pregnant.” “My stories were sometimes satirical takeoffs on news of the day, trends in society and local issues, events and characters. But more often (they) centered on the humor in everyday family life,” Miller explained, adding that he was one of the lucky ones who had put pen to paper to memorialize the experiences in print. “Favorite themes including battling nature in the forms of floods, insects and hungry ‘possums, runaway dogs, cats that leave mouse remains on the carpet.”
Through his tales, readers would become familiar with his cast of family characters.
Those same characters are there to support him as the normally healthy Miller just was diagnosed with a benign tumor benind his left eye, which is causing double vision. The prognosis appears to be good for a full recovery after a pending surgery to remove the acoustic neuroma, which may have been growing there for the last 20 years.
After possibly taking a couple months off to recuperate, Miller spectulates this may be a future book. “At one point, I will write about that as well,” he said.
Recounting the start of his journalism career, he is quick to give credit to Waight, who provided careful guidance and leadership to the young Miller after he arrived back in the area. Speaking of Waight’s allowing him to write the column, which sometimes could be controversial, Miller explained, “(Glenn) allowed me to dance on the edge.”
Cathy Seckman, a former Review colleague and book editor, wrote in the foreword to his book: “His personal columns were always bright spots in the daily grind of news with tales of kids, pets and life on the farm. His feature stories were always interesting, always entertaining, and they occasionally made us cry. . . I’ve been surprised, reading through these, by how often I stop and think, ‘Oh, I remember this one,'” describing how his “Hoopie-pudlian” columns were among her favorites and are among Ohio Valley lore now.
Looking back, Miller attributes the popularity of his column to its approachability.
“I didn’t write down to my readers. I talked to them like we were friends,” he said. “It was like we were continuing a conversation. I value good writing, and hopefully there is some in there.”
“I am in love with the English language, and I try to write in a style that is not flowery but sings. As I go back and look at my columns, I am surprised how many good ones that still are relevant today. The goal was to capture moments that were important to me, and there are still people who felt they knew and cared about me and my family.”
Miller’s book, “Worshrag, Shark & Seed” is available for $10 online at www.fredmilleratlarge.com or on countertops at the following businesses: East Liverpool’s Pottery City Antiques, Hot Dog Shoppe and Marty’s Pharmacy; Calcutta’s Green Marble Shop and Giant Eagle; Chester’s Davis Brothers Pharmacy, Frank’s Pastry, Connie’s Restaurant, Citizen Drugs and Murray Library; New Cumberland’s Davis Brother Pharmacy and Swaney Library; and Midland’s Sal Mari Subs.