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In the pilot episode of my new weekly podcast The Writing Process, I speak with my dear friend Jess Estepa. She’s a national politics reporter for USA Today.
She also was the first person I called when I wanted to figure out what exactly I wanted to accomplish with this idea of mine. I knew I wanted to capture real lessons on writing from lots of different forms, but I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it. Jess patiently let me sort that out.
In this first-ever episode, among the topics, we cover the following:
- Journalism is a structured writing form that teaches speed and learning by doing.
- To capture source notes, there are those who curate on spot and those, like Jess, who capture nearly everything during interviews to sort out later.
- Even a serious politics reporter can find something valuable in lighter fare — like turkeys.
Given that this was my very first interview from way back in January, you’re going to find slightly different forms in future episodes. But Jess is thoughtful enough that her insights broke through my clumsiness in this first go-around.
For my fellow journalism nerds, you can find a bit more of our interview, where we dove more deeply into the journalism stuff here.
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Today I am announcing a new personal passion project: a weekly podcast conversation with master writers from an array of different forms.
Humans have spoken to each other for maybe 100,000 years (or, uh, a lot longer). But we’ve only had writing for 6,000 of them. We’ve cultivated corn for twice as long.
Even though it’s relatively new, we have lots of forms of writing: from short stories and novels to journalism and memoir to poems and lyrics and comics and software code. When I talk to friends who are gifted in any of these, I find they listen closely to the Greats in their form. But rarely the Greats from the other forms. That feels like an opportunity.
That’s why I’m launching The Writing Process, a weekly podcast conversation I have with masters from all of the many writing forms. Please subscribe on iTunes or other places podcasts can be found. I’ll also be posting each episode here.
Continue reading Introducing The Writing Process: my new weekly podcast
Caught in a debate about whether or not software programming should be taught in schools, I wanted to start from a first principle. What do I think every American should graduate high school knowing?
Pulled out from pedagogy or educational theory, this became an exercise simply to explore what I felt was important.
Continue reading What a kid should graduate high school knowing
This month marks the 10th anniversary of my first publishing on this personal site of mine. That’s a decade of publishing at least once every single month for 120 consecutive months. That sounds batty to me.
Scan my archives here.
I first bought my name as a domain in 2005 and built a little site using Dreamweaver, when it was still Macromedia, sitting in my university computer lab, but I let it lapse. I had no body of work, and even the compressed versions of short videos I was creating then were too big for my early hosting package — this was before both YouTube was at scale and Amazon Web Services had even launched, you’ll remember.
By December 2007, I felt like I had a greater purpose. I was an undergraduate active in my college newspaper, frequently writing fiction and learning as much as I possibly could. So on December 4 of that year, I bought a domain and redirected it to a WordPress.com blog template, starting with this post. I was an active and early Google Reader user, following and reading a growing array of bloggers I admired and wanted to join the conversation. I was super excited by RSS feeds.
During the next 10 years, this blog has been a major part of my personal and professional development. To look back, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way.
Continue reading Wow, I’ve been writing here for 10 years. Here’s what I’ve learned
One of the challenges I gave myself this year was to sharpen my humor writing. Though I like to think of myself of something resembling funny in person — would you like to hear a knock knock joke? — this is not a quality that I have developed in my writing.
So with that in mind, I took on several causes in fiction writing recently. I’m proud to say that that resulted in a small, playful item of mine being published by the Internet Tendency, the online satire site of well-known publisher McSweeney’s. I summoned my own entrepreneurship experience and coverage of other founders and startup culture: “REALLY, EVERYTHING IS GOING GREAT AT MY TECH STARTUP. I JUST HAVE SOME PAYROLL QUESTIONS.”
Read it here.
It was fun to see people I know share the piece without knowing I wrote it, in addition to McSweeney fans (and I am one) enjoying it too. It was a new experience writing for a publication I know well. I hope you enjoy.
[I originally published this on Medium here.]
For years I’ve joined in the pushback against the empty and cliche pledge that some city wants to become the next Silicon Valley. Over the last few years, I’ve watched a similar boast begin to pop up into unnervingly unexpected places:
We’re going to launch the next SXSW.
No. No you are not. Let me tell you why.
Continue reading This is why you’re not going to create the next SXSW
A version of this essay was published as part of my twice-monthly newsletter several weeks ago. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.
Censorship is about content (you can’t say this or that). Civility is about tone (you can’t say this like that).
Attribution bias virtually guarantees that we are sure our tone is appropriate for all circumstances. If we use vulgar language or overly fatalistic language, it’s because we are on the right and just side of a cause. If someone with whom we disagree does this, they are proving just why they something short of civil.
Continue reading Don’t mix up censorship with civility
For its age and influence and subjectivity, writing is one of those crafts that require great study and practice, though they don’t guarantee success alone.
The ordering of words has always been a great love of mine. I’ve been writing at length for as long as I can remember in whatever medium I could find. I’ve spent the last 10 years developing my news writing form, a tradition I have great pride in. However I’ve tried to keep developing my creative storytelling instincts too — fiction being a complimentary but wholly distinct offering from the non-fiction I know best.
Here’s some of what I’ve learned.
Continue reading Here are some things I’ve learned about being a better writer
Recently a few ideas came together for me that made me want to acknowledge something that might be obvious to others. It isn’t directly related to the Election but it offers a timeliness.
At their best, institutions, and governments specifically, move slowly by design. Like the plan for charter schools influencing school districts, the very hope for startups and other young organizations is to be a place for risk and experimentation.
By merger or sheer influence, the best of these ideas should survive their way through bureaucracy and other obstacles. Others won’t survive. Though that has worked for so long in much of American political life, we were just reminded of how vulnerable that still is. But that isn’t the real goal.
Continue reading The speed of government (and other institutions) is a feature not a bug
Policymakers and economic development strategists are startup crazy — in pursuit of a silly goal. I know. I’ve spent most of the last decade reporting on young tech companies, exactly the slice of firm creation that has led much of the attention in this post-recession fixation.
Though I’ve taken various approaches at understanding what, if anything, is really different about this era’s of business creation, I recently found myself pulling together some data that I wanted to share.
Hype around startups — newly created businesses, particularly ones that are approaching new business models — has merit. But the concept isn’t as new and their impact isn’t yet as bold as you might hope — Millennials are on pace to be one of the least entrepreneurial generations on record.
Continue reading Here’s the data to put our country’s startup frenzy into context