Story behind the story — Supriya Sridhar

I talked to Kelli Stacy about a piece she wrote on an OU football player named Jordan Thomas. I’ve known Kelli for a while and knew the high quality of her work. However, she writes about sports, something I have never been very interested in.

The thing that struck me about this piece is that when I read this, I actually cared about football.

The way that the piece is written, the football doesn’t really matter. Yes it is about football, but more importantly, it is about a young man who strives for perfection. That’s a theme that everyone can relate to.

One of the main aspects of the story that I found compelling was the thought process and detail behind each of Jordan’s moves. When I spoke with Kelli about her process of reporting it was evident that she had a presence of mind throughout the reporting process.

Kelli said that the reason she decided to pursue the story was because she knew he was struggling with football. When she asked Jordan he said that the negative feedback didn’t affect him.

She thought that was interesting since it usually affects players mentally. She decided to ask his parents about where he got that confidence from and was able to talk to his dad.

His dad told her about his high school days and about a moment when he was a freshman on varsity and he was about be demoted to the freshman team after not playing well. He was given a make it or break it moment.

Jordan was 14 at that time and Kelli knew that it was something that she needed to look into, connecting it again to the idea of inner confidence. She talked to his high school coach and after spoke with Jordan again, asking him specifics this time.

Throughout this process, She picked up on little things that wouldn’t be evident unless you were thinking of how to paint the picture of a confident perfectionist.

She dived into moments when interviewing where he let his guard down. For example, he began talking about his screen saver. She pushed into that and it became the lede of her story.

With the small details she kept thinking, what is something no one else would have.

She found videos of his plays and made sure to ask about those moments and his feelings about them. She decided to consolidate those feelings by writing them in her own voice helping it make sense to readers.

One of the most impressive things about this story is that Kelli wrote it in 2 ½ days. It shows that intentional reporting is extremely important in feature writing.


Campus Corner Mural: Sooner legends turned comic book heroes

When Dean Codner was a young boy, he and two of his friends spent their time riding bikes to collect pop bottles. They would sell the bottles to buy candy and comic books, whose graphic style illustrations they would go home and try to mirror.

“Our whole quest, especially in the summer was to try to find comic books as much as we could and read and draw out of them,” said Codner, eyes lighting up as he referenced Marvel Comics and the Hulk, his favorite character.

Now, the 57-year-old artist is painting a mural on 588 Buchanan Ave. in the midst of Campus Corner commemorating the area’s 100th anniversary. The mural’s design is inspired by the comic book art of his childhood, but this time with with local superheroes: Sooner legends.

“Good job,” people would say. People walked by Codner and his mural on a rare breezy late summer day. He’d glance over, breaking his concentration to say thanks before returning to his work.

Art served Codner as an escape from a dysfunctional family. He says his parents were alcoholics, creating a lot of violence in his home. His grandmother would take him to Saturday art classes. She encouraged Codner to pursue art.

“She encouraged me to keep trying. She said ‘You don’t have anybody but yourself so if you never try you’re never gonna know if you can make it’,” Codner said.

As he reminisced about his youth, a little girl walked up to watch Codner paint.

“Come here Carly” said Michelle Boone to her daughter.

“No” she whined as Boone tried to get her to walk away.

The little girl stood and continued to watch Codner with concentration.

Every Monday, she goes to art class, Boone said. The pair, from Wichita Falls, Texas began talking to Codner.

“My grandmother used to take me three to four hours to paint.” Codner says smiling looking over at the little girl with an affinity for art like him.

A doodler by trade

As Codner grew up, he began to see differences in his artistic ability versus his classmates. He continued to develop his skills through high school when his father died

His grandmother wanted him to study art and he worked with his teachers to apply for college scholarships.

“As kids we did a lot of camping and hiking and we did a lot of outdoor activity and she always thought I was going to go into doing art or forestry,” Codner said of his grandmother.

He was offered a two-year scholarship at UCO. After switching his major three times he settled on commercial architecture and advertising design.

Barry Howe, Codner’s friend from high school was helping him paint the mural. Codner looked over “Here’s what you do,” he said demonstrating the brush technique. “See how it’s flat, see how there’s more control, take the brush sideways like that.”

Howe nodded, watching the brush strokes in Codner’s hand.

Howe graduated from OU with a degree in business. Codner and he were old wrestling buddies and had known each other for 40 years.

Although Howe doesn’t have much painting experience, Codner saw a talent in him, said Howe.

“I’m a doodler by trade,” Howe said, the corner of his mouth curling into a smile.

When the Norman Arts Council said they wanted to do a historical mural, Codner started thinking about the best way to present something that would appeal to college students as well as older generations.

He thought about Billy Vessels, the first OU Heisman trophy winner and OU basketball legend Wayman Tisdale. The two legends are painted as heroes on the mural, a sooner comic book.

Painting in the black lines that shape the words ‘Campus Corner’, Howe looked up at the wall.

“To have done something that’s going to be here for decades is a pretty neat experience,” he said.

Sooner Heritage

Sitting on a stool in camo shorts and a matching hat, Codner stared intently at his paintbrush, detailing bits of the mural.

Codner painted billboards in the ‘80s and ‘90s when things were hand painted. He did work for companies like Coca-Cola and different restaurants. The large scale canvases appealed to him.

“If I want to live my own dream with the blessings God gave me then I need to make an effort,” Codner said.

His gold cross necklace beamed brightly against his white T-shirt.

Growing up in Oklahoma, Codner had always been a fan of OU football. He would gather with friends on Saturdays to watch the games.

He remembers the days of Sooner legends — Tinker Owens, Jack Mildren, Joe Washington and Barry Switzer.

“It was just part of a heritage for us growing up,” Codner said

Today Campus Corner is a sea of crimson and cream on game days. Before the game, people gather together in anticipation. After the game, people flood the area to celebrate victories said Erin Patton, executive director of the Campus Corner Association.

“Campus Corner and the university go hand in hand,” Patton said

The association sponsored the mural, and will be fundraising soon to expand Dean’s design. The expansion will feature iconic buildings and landmarks over Campus Corner.

As cars whizzed by, Codner looked up at his work. The grandiosity of comics book heroes and sooner icons melded together.

“It’s going to be meaningful,” Codner said

Q&A: Carly Robinson — the practical artist by Supriya Sridhar

Q: I know you switched your major to journalism fairly recently. Tell me a little bit about that.

A: Well, I started off as a business major because that’s what my dad did and I just thought that I would be successful in that, but I’m more of a creative person so I finally decided that that was not the route for me. I suck at macro and math and pretty much everything you need for business. I switched to journalism because I like design and writing and I thought that was a good way to mesh those and that it also was a way for me to use my artistic inclinations in a more practical way.

Q: When did your artistic inclinations start?

A: My mom had me entering … she had me in art classes for as long as i can remember. In downtown Tulsa she would take me on Saturdays to go do painting classes and photography classes. She had me entering photography competitions when I was in kindergarten and we would just go and I would have these blurry pictures of flowers at a park or something that I thought looked good. I got an honorable mention a couple of times. It was a big to-do.

Q: You mentioned kind of like journalism as a practical usage of your artistic inclinations and your father’s business being something that pushed you towards that. Why is the sense of practicality important to you?

A: Just thinking about going out and saying “Oh I want to be an artist. I’m going to be a painter” I don’t know. To me… I don’t know that just doesn’t seem like something that I want to pursue and doesn’t seem very practical. I guess I want something that’s a little bit more safe and something that I can I can kind of rely on.

Q: When you say safe and stable, what do those words mean to you?

A: I want a job. I want a 9 to 5. I guess I don’t want a freelance painter. I know people have made it out there in the world and that’s great that’s wonderful. I don’t know. I like routine and having something to depend on.

Q: Do you think that in any way stifles the creative experience that you could potentially have?

A: No, not really because I like to keep that stuff up as a hobby too and if I did ever want to do photography for someone or like paint for someone I would do that on the side but I feel like now that I’m so honed in on what I want to do that it really kind of cultivates the inspiration.

Q: What is it about the magazine industry that’s compelling to you?

A: I’ve always had a passion for like fashion and now I’m working in weddings which is really cool, but it’s a way to combine those interests with writing and photography and all that stuff.

Q: In a combination of a career that is both safe and stable as well as artistic, what does that look like to you in five years?

A: I think I would like to work at Brides of Oklahoma for a little bit after I graduate. I don’t think I want to stay there forever but right now I’m only doing an internship position and I see what a lot of the other women are doing and involved in. I kind of want to immerse myself in that a little bit more.

Essay: My snow globe childhood


Walking into my childhood home after school was like entering a secret clubhouse. Quirky characters with wrinkly fingers greeted me with snacks, laughs and “The Sound of Music” on repeat.

Chuckles too big for 70-year old-lungs filled the air. They were followed by coughs and then smiles.

I was raised by three grandparents and a great grandma. My parents, who had married young, were usually working, building a life in Norman after years of attempting to acclimate to a foreign country.

Mamay, my mother’s mother, exhibited the impact of British colonialism on Indian culture. She drank British tea in white china, tended to her garden and let sarcasm fly faster than her victims could register her remarks. She loved mangos and taught me to love them, too, as we grazed our teeth along the giant pits, peeling off any excess juicy goodness we could.

Raj, my mother’s father and my own personal stylist, wore foundation he insisted was moisturizer. He fashioned three-piece suits with his hair slicked back, everyday. The most casual I ever saw him was in a polo on the weekend. When my tween self came back from the mall, he’d patiently critique my purchases. We’d compare notes about who had the best sales and new products. We’d end our days with tiramisu from Olive Garden.

Kamaliamma, my dad’s mom, was loud. She was the original feminist. She let me do whatever I wanted, even when my dad said no, always answering my timid fears with, “Eh, we’ll deal with him later.” She was the queen of pineapple pizza, slipping me $20 bills to order in.

Alu, my great grandmother, did crossword puzzles well into her 90s. She knew more than any encyclopedia, and ate riotous amounts of popcorn. Late at night, when I’d help her into bed, she’d tell me about the adventures she had as a youth in Burma. She taught me to have some of my own.

As I grew, they remained the same. They were constants, living snow globe lives. Their 70-year-old lungs would always be full of laughter. They existed in a tiny familiar world that would always be home to me.

When I left for college, things changed.

I began to deal with health issues. My anxiety, which turned into depression, which turned into something resembling a bipolar disorder, began to consume my life.

My childhood clubhouse became quieter. Chuckles shrank. “The Sound of Music” stopped.

Mamay began to eat fewer mangos, her diabetic blood begging her to slow down.

Raj began wearing polos more often, easier to get dressed in each morning than his full suits.

Kamaliamma began to spend more time at my aunt’s in Chicago. At first I thought she liked my cousins better. Then I realized it was because my aunt was a doctor.

Alu’s encyclopedia brain began to forget things — starting with the Pythagorean theorem and ending with my name.

My health began to take a turn for the worse. Autoimmune issues, neurological dilemmas, medical mysteries took over my life. As my days filled with scans and blood tests, so did theirs.

Mamay developed breast cancer, Alu passed away, Raj was consumed with stress and Kamalamma kept postponing her surgeries.

Going home, nostalgia stings my heart. As I walk into the living room I see Raj, Niru and Kamaliamma in the kitchen. Niru, bald, smiles at me while she sneaks a mango onto her plate. “Touch my head,” she says, laughing. “Your cousins say it’s really soft.”

Raj rolls his eyes, “You look good,” he says. “Want to go to Dillard’s with me later?”

Kamaliamma feigns false annoyance. “Have you forgotten me?” she says, before breaking into a toothy grin.

They smile, happy, talking about chemo, surgeries and blood sugar. They don’t exist in a snow globe. Neither do I. Their 70-year-old lungs will fall apart, their laughs will shrink. I will change. My ideas of familiarity, of home, will also change.

It’s the secret of the elderly — the no bullshit acceptance of reality.

When Niru was first diagnosed, I asked how she felt. She said that she was scared for the pain, but nothing else. She had a career, a family, friends. She got to paint, drink tea, watch Audrey Hepburn movies.

“I’ve lived my life,” she said.

Now as my head rolls into a whizzing MRI machine, “Doe a dear, a female dear…” begins to play in my head. I smile, closing my eyes.

Tomorrow I will watch the sunrise. Get coffee with an old friend. I will read the book on my nightstand. I will book a plane ticket to visit my brother, plan a camping trip with friends. And someday, when my fingers are covered with wrinkles and a big-eyed, curly-haired girl looks up at me and asks how I am, I know exactly what I will say.

“I’m good. I’ve lived.”