Woog’s World: Westport writer is ‘Anchored’ in two worlds
Updated 6:19 am, Saturday, August 15, 2015
If not, she’s certainly the only one to also live in Westport, and to have just published a novel based on her long career in cable news.
Quinn’s story — her real one, not fiction — begins in Port Washington, the Long Island town she likens to Westport. Writing for her high school newspaper, she realized she liked being “the quiet observer in the back of the class.”
After graduating in 1980, she entered Cornell University as a communications major. She wanted to write news for WVBR-FM in Ithaca, but writers there also delivered it. Quinn fell in love with that aspect of journalism, and decided she wanted to be a radio anchor.
Her first job after college was on Long Island. She freelanced for 1010 WINS radio in New York; then in August 1988 was named morning drive anchor for 880 WCBS.
Eight years later, her agent told her to check out the next big thing: cable television news. She was hired by MSNBC, and thrived.
“If anyone in journalism has the opportunity to work with a launch venture, take it!” Quinn advises. There was tons of breaking news; a “Hey, let’s put on a show!”-type energy — and plenty of technical mishaps and missing guests. She learned to think on her feet.
In 1998 Quinn was transferred to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, as host of “NBC News at Sunrise” — the lead-in to “The Today Show.” Her next move was to Fox News Channel, where she remained for nine years.
In 2002, Quinn and her husband moved to Westport. Four years later — with three small children, a husband who worked long hours and an aging mother — she asked Fox if she could work part-time. She did that for two more years.
Quinn then embarked on a teaching career. She was an adjunct journalism professor at Quinnipiac University and Pace University’s Pleasantville campus. She got her master’s degree in writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and started writing — this time, for pleasure.
But she missed broadcasting. She went back to WCBS part-time, then last fall was named morning drive anchor at WINS.
That means she gets up — are you ready for this? — at 2:30 a.m. “If only Westport were in Bronxville,” she laughs. “It’s a schlep.”
She has to drive in (thankfully, there is not much traffic).
But, Quinn says, “When I get to the newsroom and look at the stories I’m going to write before I go on the air at 5:30, I forget how tired I am. After all these years in broadcasting, it’s still interesting. Every day, I learn something news.”
She does several half-hour shows. She’s back in Westport by noon.
Which gives her plenty of time to do other things — like work on that novel she began back in 2008.
It started as a series of vignettes, about the memorable and funny experiences she’d had in the cable news business. But, Quinn knew, “I’m not a big enough name to sell a memoir. And it was more fun to just make up stories.”
The result — several years and many drafts later — was “Anchored.” The finished novel is about Barbara King, a feisty redhead who works at a Phoenix cable station. She covers car chases and interviews drunken show-biz has-beens, but dreams of being the next Barbara Walters. (It’s set in the early 2000s, so that makes sense.)
King is given a co-anchor. He’s chilly to her at first, but things turn (of course) hot. King begins to wonder: How much should she do at work to “get ahead?” And can she remain “anchored” to her family while being seduced by both fame, and her co-anchor?
Quinn calls the genre “chick lit, beach read, or maybe mom-book-club.” Whatever it is, it’s a very enjoyable read.
The writing process was nothing like she was used to, Quinn notes. A radio newscaster writes for speed. Novel writing, on the other hand, is much more descriptive. She used plenty of adjectives — “verboten,” she says, in the newsroom.
She also learned to create a story arc, complete with beginning, middle and end.
It was challenging, but fun, she says. She found it easy putting words in the mouths of characters she’d created.
Though “Anchored” is not set in Westport, Quinn believes that many women here can relate to her protagonist’s complex feelings about career and family. The novel opens as King plans to spend a day with her young son — but gets called in to cover a plane crash.
Brigitte Quinn has done all that — and more. Her life may be hectic, her hours different from many Westporters. But she is most definitely “anchored.”