01:05: YA Author Blair Thornburgh (Corrected Audio)

Blair Thornburgh comes from “book people, going back generations.”

The author of the 2017 Young Adult Fiction novel “Who’s That Girl” from HarperCollins, she says there is a saying around her family. Never give a Thornburgh a book — or you’ll be forced to sit there politely while they read it in front of you.

She’s just 28 but as an editor at beloved novelty publisher Quirk Books and in the midst of a two-book deal with a major industry powerhouse, she has some insight.

The author of two books, an editor on several others and working on her next novel, she reminds us that the joy of a book is that, as author, “you’re making a promise to the reader” and want to deliver.

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01:04 Comedian Todd Glass

How does a joke writer take a punchline from a voice memo to a major Netflix comedy special? Let’s ask celebrated standup comedian Todd Glass.

In the fourth episode of the first season of the weekly Writing Process Podcast, I discuss that among many other methodologies from a man who doesn’t quite consider himself a writer. Todd’s perspective is unique: he grew up with several learning disabilities, so his relationship to writing is far different than others.

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01:03 Rapper Chill Moody

As hip hop became a global, cultural force, the definition of rapper has stretched.

But its origins, as a cornerstone of live events, remain very much alive in people like Chill MoodyA native of West Philadelphia, Chill is an effortless emcee on stage and fiercely proud of his lyrics. Though he grew up in the economically distressed (though by no means monolithic) Overbrook neighborhood, Chill excelled academically and came from a supportive family. As a much-beloved underground artist, he uses music as a storytelling platform, for his experience and those like him.

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Do not save writing for later, more will come: ‘The Writing Life’ by Annie Dillard

The Writing Life,‘ a 1989 collection of essays from novelist Annie Dillard, is one of the foundational contributions to the canon of teaching modern fiction writing.

A few months ago, I finally tore through the tidy, celebrated, delightful little book, commonly known as the friendly, fiction alternative to the 1920 grammarian guide from Strunk and White. (Interestingly a New York Times book review took a dim view of her collection, but it’s cherished today.)

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You’re going to get criticized. Learn when to listen.

One effective way to divide the kind of criticism you’ll get for your work is to split the feedback between that which comes from someone who has done the work you’re doing and that which comes from someone else.

It doesn’t necessarily mean one category will always be effective or helpful or productive or not. Those are further distinctions. But when I’m receiving critical feedback —  on something I’ve written or presented or shared — often the first check I make is that one.

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Journalists: what do you love first, the Reporting or the Writing

A version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter several weeks ago. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

One of the first questions I ask younger reporters when I meet them is which is their first love: the reporting or the writing. Storytelling, as the form is euphemistically categorized, is very old. The ways we report and write, too, have old origins, but their forms adapt with the times. They change constantly. I bet your industry has a similar kind of split, subtly different pathways to the professional work.

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New Sincerity is the answer to snarky post-modern web culture

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.

I’ve been struggling a lot over the last couple years, and of course particularly in the last six months, with how mean the social web can be. How mean we are to each other. And how naive I sound to others when I think we can be something else.

This has gotten me into reading about the New Sincerity movement of the 1980s that then got a major boost of attention in the 1990s by beloved and troubled writer David Foster Wallace. It’s what I’ve been searching for.

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Here are some things I’ve learned about being a better writer

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.

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25 things I learned from the best newspapermen (and women) around

Dallas News reporter John Rosenfield sitting at desk, behind typewriter in Houston, TX in November 1948. Photo by Michael Rougier for Life magazine.

Tradition matters to me.

It gives us culture. It is a way to pay remembrance for those who came before. Yes, it’s a little bit fun.

In the world of news, there is a lot of tradition that needs to be lost. Unquestioned impartiality, balance without real context, an ignorance and distance of what funds it, a rigid belief in a strictly reactionary audience.

But, I’ve always felt, there is lot to be taken in from the past. I’ve been blessed to work alongside some talented and hungry older journalists who have imparted great wisdom on me. I thought some of that tradition was worth sharing as, in my own way, I try to preserve the best of it.

Below, find 25 pieces of advice about being a newsman that I take great value in.

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News roundups: own your niche, learn and link when starting any content creation

It's a roundup: Cowboys and pickup trucks push the herd of buffalo across Lame Johnny Road during Monday morning's Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park on Monday. (Kristina Barker/Journal staff)

This fall, I started doing something on the Back on My Feet blog that should probably be the first step of every community news site ever: a weekly aggregated roundup of existing news on homelessness.

It’s something I advocate to any content creator in which I am involved.

A primary rule of anyone with mission today is to share content related to that mission, as you probably can pretty easily beat bigger media on issues relevant to your work.

But the specific virtue of a simple roundup can be profound. It follows any number of rules of the web today.

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