Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Writers on writing - wisdom, education and producing it for free

There's been a lot of pieces I've come across over the last 4-6 weeks on the subject of writing (which I love to link to pieces on) that I found interesting and which fell into a few different areas... writing wisdom, writing education and writing for free.

In the area of writing wisdom I've seen lately were pieces from quite a few different sources...

Starting things off was a string of tweets about a month ago by ESPN writer Kevin Van Valkenburg. In the first he linked to a Gawker piece titled "Billy Joel Stuns Vanderbilt with Once-In-A-Lifetime Answer to Student’s Question" on freshman Michael Pollack asking the singer if he could accompany him on piano for a song and subsequent tweets had Van Valkenburg's thoughts on the subject.

I was just talking to a journalism class last about why it's important in life just to ask. Sometimes people say yes. And you know what? If they say no, you've lost nothing. The world belongs to people bold enough to ask: Can I? Would you? Why not? The other thing I love about that Joel thing is that student was obviously talented, but also ready when his moment arrived. I spent several years thinking I was somehow unworthy of asking to write for ESPN. How silly was that? Be bold, be ready, and take a shot. Fear of rejection is a silly pair of handcuffs to wear in any field. If you obsess about your craft & work hard, maybe you ARE good enough.

Additionally, two fairly small stories with writing wisdom had the first from the website 22 words with "Writing advice from writers handwritten on writers’ hands [14 pictures]" and then "The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do" by Colin Nissan for the website of McSweeney's, the San Francisco based  publishing house started by Dave Eggers.

Two longer piece of writing wisdom of late came from authors Neal Pollack and Peter Richmond. Pollack wrote the book Alternadad (which apparently didn't sell well, but I enjoyed) and he did an interview for the website AV Club that resulted in "Neal Pollack on rebounding from massive hype and six-figure deals to online publishing". Some very interesting stuff put forth from Pollack, especially around him noting the importance of focusing on the writing rather than empire building around writing. Richmond is the author of Badasses: The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death, and John Madden's Oakland Raiders and he recently did an interview for the website TV Fury was "The Fury Files: Peter Richmond". There was some excellent material from Richmond and just yesterday I saw from him "Fit to Print?" for the site Alex Belth's Bronx Banter and about the need for journalists to responsibly cover tragedy as while they're trying to get the story, the subjects are actually living with the pain of the event. His words made a lot of sense and brought to mind similar thoughts by Michael Schaer in his piece "Interviews With The Survivors" for The Awl last month.

It very much could be included in the writing wisdom category as well, but around writing education last month was "Missouri School of Journalism Alumni Give Insights into Long-Form Stories and Reporting". The writeup on the J School website featured notes from a March 4th on-campus workshop with Mike Sager and Missouri alums Justin Heckert, Tony Rehagen, Robert Sanchez and Wright Thompson. A couple of shorter things I've seen recently within the writing education topic were the schedule for the July 2013 Mayborn Conference in Dallas, TX and "Ashland University Professor Launches Audio Podcast" about a writing podcast with Matt Tullis. Also, it's not necessarily anything I've seen new, but something additional around writing education is the UC Berkeley School of Journalism day-long workshop East Meets West: A Gathering of Literary Journalists last held in November 2012.

In terms of writing for free, heavily discussed and written about was the Nate Thayer blog post "A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist-2013" on him being asked to provide free writing for The Atlantic's website. It was definitely an interesting read and of the follow-up pieces I've seen by others on it, the one I found most of note was from Jason Fry who wrote "On Writing for Free" to his personal blog.