By Paul Lonardo
“In literature, when nine hundred and ninety-nine souls ignore you, but the thousandth buys your work, or at least borrows it — that is called enormous popularity.” ~ Arnold Bennett These words ring true for all writers, including the rather successful English novelist who spoke them. The Smithfield Times’ own Ron Scopelliti has been writing a long time, and keenly understands the sardonic sentiment.
Growing up, many people told him that he should be a writer, but he figured it would always be a hobby. “It was never something I thought I could make a living at,” Scopelliti says. “I didn’t see a lot of opportunities, and I wasn’t sure I could cut it as a newspaperman. I just didn’t think I had the right temperament for it, dealing with the deadlines and the criticism.”
He turned out to be wrong on that front. In fact, it is his self-deprecating style, together with a clever wit and unique observational abilities, that contribute to his gift which he uses to connect with his readers. A Nerd’s Eye View was an award-winning humor column Scopelliti wrote for the former Your Smithfield Magazine from 2006-2014. His recently released his first book, titled Notes From The Underdog: The Best of A Nerd’s Eye View, is a compilation of his funniest and most insightful columns. The book, published by Greyledge Press, features a selection of 36 columns which all appeared in the monthly magazine’s 100-issue run.
“I went through my old columns,” Scopelliti says, “and read every one of them again, which was kind of painful. You end up seeing what you should have done differently, and with some of them you end up thinking ‘why did I even bother stating that?’ But I only did a little rewriting, making minor changes. I didn’t want to change the intent of what I originally wrote.”
Scopelliti’s path to becoming a writer was a circuitous one. He earned his first degree at CCRI, receiving an associate degree in mechanical engineering technology. While working as a technologist for six years, he ended up doing a lot of writing for the company.
“The company was developing new products and new manufacturing procedures and they needed someone to write down the procedures and translate them so that they could be better understood by manufacturers.”
Writing a lot of operating and safety procedures made Scopelliti wonder if this was the kind of writer he was fated to be.
“I was getting to the point where I needed to go back to school to get a bachelor’s degree to move any further,” he says. “So I ended up switching out of mechanical engineering and going into writing and communications at UMASS Dartmouth.”
His original thought was to go into technical writing, but once he received his degree he realized that there was not a lot of long term contracts, only short term stuff. The insecurities in this field prompted him to act on an ad he saw in The Observer. They were looking for writers and he decided to give it a shot. This is when he first met Larry Sasso, and the rest is history.
Scopelliti’s own writing took a back seat once he got into journalism. While at the Observer, he did straight news, but when he and Sasso started their own publication, Your Smithfield Magazine, they both agreed that he should write a column. As co-owner of the new magazine, Scopelliti figured he would just write about whatever he felt like writing about. “I figured if maybe five people read my column and enjoyed it, got something out of it, I’m happy,” Scopelliti says. “I never expected it to be as popular as it turned out to be.”
That column was A Nerd’s Eye View. It was funny, quirky, filled with wry wit and Scopelliti’s unique outlook on life. People would see him around town, at Target or someplace, point to him and say, “I know you. You’re the nerd.”
Scopelliti was surprised that so many people identified with the stuff that interested him, that stuff that makes him a nerd.
“It’s funny how that culture, the nerd culture, has taken on a different sort of status from the time when I was in high school.” Scopelliti says. “I was in the computer club, and there were five members, and this was a time when we didn’t have any computers yet.”
He saw firsthand how the nerd culture developed over the years from the days that Star Trek conventions was something that was attended by a few oddballs, and today there are different Cons all around the country, and the world, and they are all well-attended.
The popularity of his A Nerd’s Eye View column was the springboard Scopelliti needed to start writing again, dusting off some old projects and ideas, as well as working on some new material. Who knows what we will see in the future from Scopelliti, but no matter how many books he sells, he’ll always be enormously popular around here.
To find Ron’s book visit www.amazon.com and search “Notes From The Underdog”.