The Miami Herald Tropic Magazine did a lot to promote literary culture in south Florida. Its editorial staff actively attempted to discover new talent, and provided an outlet for fresh voices that might otherwise have gone unheard. In 1985 then-editor Gene Weingarten put out a call for guest editorials, and received a submission from one Terrence Michael Shine. He was not a professional writer. He was, as Weingarten described him, "a guy who worked in a drugstore." According to Shine himself, he had little formal education and had read fewer than a dozen books in his life. Nevertheless, his writing was remarkable. Weingarten published that first essay and then a few other short pieces. Then he commissioned Shine to write about "Why I Work at the Drugstore", and that story really broke through. It has remained one of the most-remembered stories ever published in Tropic, and it won awards for Shine and the Herald.
Eventually Shine stopped fighting his destiny and quit his job at the drugstore. He wrote an account of that momentous decision, as well, which was also published in Tropic. The magazine didn't put him on staff, but he wrote occasional feature stories for them. When he wrote a feature based on his experiences delivering pizzas, Tom Shroder, who had taken over as editor by that time, attempted to describe what was special about Shine's writing. "...whatever Shine is writing about," Shroder writes, "the subject is always intimacy -- that personal space where we live, hidden behind all the faces we present to the world. We pretend that what is important in our lives are the great issues of war and peace and politics, the intensely fought battles of the work place, the courtroom and the market. But Shine has the gift of seeing through all the suits, all the armor of status and convention, to the naked human truth that underlies it all."
Tropic magazine is no more. Shroder and Weingarten left for the Washington Post long ago, along with a lot of other talented Miami Herald writers. Terry Shine remains in south Florida. For many years he has been on the staff of a local weekly paper, the City Link. He writes features for them and also a column called "Timeline," which gives a minute-by-minute account of life as seen through his eyes and filtered through his brain. It's always interesting, often hilarious. Shine has recently begun a blog called ShineTime, where you can read the unedited version of "Timeline" every week.
Also recommended, Fathers Aren't Supposed to Die, an account of how Shine's family came together when his father was dying. This book made me laugh out loud and made me cry in public. It's devoid of any excess sentimentality and full of humanity and insight.
So who is this guy? He does a good job of staying private at the same time as he is writing about his innermost thoughts. All I know is, he's a very talented writer, and I'm not going to pass up any opportunity to read his work.